• 2004-08-05
When Valdas Adamkus was elected president six weeks ago, the political elite drew his victorious return to the Presidential Palace like an old-fashioned comic book knock-down. The Constitutional Court had successfully stabbed the Paksas monster to death. Kazimiera Prunskiene, who, if you listened to Adamkus apologists during the campaign, was hardly distinguishable from a three-headed fire-breathing lizard hoping to lay her KGB-infected eggs in every government nest, was soundly defeated. Standing tall with his cape flapping in the cool summer breeze, Adamkus had once again saved the day. Heck, even George Bush took 10 minutes out of his busy schedule fighting the villains of the world to personally welcome Adamkus back to the superhero fold.

But being a hero often means more than just wearing a tight-fitting costume. For almost the past two years, the mark of a true political rogue in Lithuania has been the money test. Paksas got his from the obviously amphibian Yuri Borisov, who, it later turned out, made a pact with the president fit for any comic book plot. Prunskiene was accused of finding hers in the shady treasure troves to the East. And now it turns out that three prominent parliamentarians may have been acting as cashiers for their respective parties' "black cash registers"- a possibly criminal scheme by which Lithuanian business launders its donations, even to respectable parties.
With such evil around every corner, it's strange that President Adamkus is hiding his own cookie jar from public view. The daily Lietuvos rytas reported that Adamkus' campaign is still in debt for around 300,000 litas (87,000 euros). But instead of receiving direct donations, which would have to be declared and made public, the president is using his personal "fund"-to which contributions can be made anonymously-to dig him out of his financial hole.
It's a safe bet that Borisov isn't one of the Adamkus fund's main benefactors, but for a politician to open himself up to speculation when he bills himself as the country's moral compass is, at best, a foolish policy decision. Even if there are no juicy names on the list of the fund's supporters, the president is passing up an unprecedented opportunity to inject some much-needed transparency into the often-murky world of Lithuanian politics.
Lithuania just endured a paralyzing national scandal and international humiliation because the former president was less than moral in his choice of campaign sponsors, so why is the current incumbent so tight-lipped about his own sources of funding?
President Adamkus needs to remember that even if he is the darling of the forces of good, staking a claim to the pinnacle of morality is an activity exercised only in the present, not the past. In spite of all the benefit he has brought Lithuania, making full disclosure of his campaign contributors is something no Baltic hero can afford not to do.