09/18/2006 10:52 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Vote for Me! -- My Money Is Older Than His

In politics, old money is almost always preferable to new.

This isn't just because the atmospherics are so good -- rolling lawns and sailboats, antique silver and tennis whites --- but because no one quite knows how much there is or where it came from. If a Robber Baron was involved, he's long dead and endowed enough libraries and museums to launder it.

New money is sweaty, if not from the brow then from deals. A corner or two might have been cut to make it. Even when there's enough, there never really is, because the self-made man frequently measures his success by his bank account and the toys he buys. New money isn't content with drafty old estates, worn oriental rugs and threadbare tweeds.

To see why the difference matters, take a look at the Senate race in New Jersey that may be the nastiest in the country. The most important issue to voters, according to polls, is national security. The most important issue, according to the candidates, incumbent Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican state legislator Thomas Kean Jr., is the provenance of their respective net worths.

The centerpiece of Kean's schedule recently was a trip to a building in Union City once owned by his opponent. He accused Menendez of collecting rent from a non-profit community agency leasing the building for about $3,000 a month while also seeking federal funds for it. The agency's records have been subpoenaed and two Republican allies of Kean filed an ethics complaint against Menendez in the U.S. Senate.

Menendez spokesman Matt Miller questioned the timing of the subpoena (the U.S. attorney was a Republican fundraiser) and said that the Senator did no more for that non-profit -- winning designation as a federally qualified health-care center to make it eligible for some grants -- than he did for dozens of others.

Read the whole thing here.