Opening Mail from White House-Hopeful 'Friends' Commentator John Carroll has been receiving a lot of mail from friends lately. Well, they're not really friends; they just write as if they were. He's opened letters from Hillary and Bill Clinton, John Edwards, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. They all make him feel so special. But John suspects it's because they all want his money.

Opening Mail from White House-Hopeful 'Friends'

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Campaign finance analysts estimate that total spending on the 2008 presidential campaign will exceed $1 billion. All that dough has to come from somewhere. And junk mail - excuse me - direct mail still seems to be a great way to move those dollars from your wallet to that of your candidate.

Commentator John Carroll has been getting plenty of such letters lately. But somehow he's been able to resist the appeals for his money.

JOHN CARROLL: If money is the lifeblood of politics, direct mail is the blood drive. And the campaign panhandlers have been going for the jugular this election season. I happen to be a bipartisan subscriber to political magazines, so I've received a steady stream of funding raising letters this year from both Democrats and Republicans - all of whom urgently need my support.

For example, a solicitation from Hillary Clinton said I can be part of making history and building a new future by giving her money. Right after that, I received a letter from Bill Clinton. It called the Bush administration un-American and exhorted me to hold their feet to the fire. That's the classic good-Clinton-bad-Clinton gambit we know and don't love so much.

Moving from Machiavellian to melancholic, I also received a dear friend letter from lonesome John McCain, who needs all the friends he can get and is one poll away from buying a dog.

And I've gotten not one but two letters from John Edwards, both incessantly used the phrase build One America. It leads me to believe that John Edwards has an excellent chance of becoming our next great real estate developer.

But this election cycle features more than just the usual tin cup rattling. We're seeing a sort of alms escalation that increasingly relies on gimmicks to make the pigeons feel special. Take Rudy Giuliani, please. The mayor or 9/11 is a tsunami of Rudybilia(ph). He sent me not only a first edition Rudy bumper sticker but also a first edition Team Rudy member card. And remember, there's no I in Rudy. Although if there were, it would be dotted with a little heart.

Other cherished items I've received include a limited edition 2007 Republican National Committee gold card. I'm told less than 2 percent of Republicans ever achieve active gold card status. For the record, I'm one of the unfortunate 98 percent - since by active, they mean you fork over some money.

But my proudest achievement has to be receiving the Congressional Order of Merit from the National Republican Congressional Committee. It is the highest honor bestowed by the NRCC. You can imagine how special I feel.

HATTORI: John Carroll is a mass communications professor at Boston University and a commentator for WGBH, Boston.

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