Campaign Finance Shenanigans -- Maybe Fiction, Maybe Not

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With the recent news of Barack Obama's record-breaking $750 million campaign fundraising efforts, it's an interesting time to release a novel about greed and deception in the field of political moneymaking. Especially if you, the author, were part of the team that helped secure Obama's three-quarters-of-a-billion sum.  

But local lawyer/politician/author John Odam tells Hair Balls he actually finished his political thriller, The Candidate Conspiracy, before he started working on the Obama/Biden Texas Finance Committee. (Really, he did.)

The book is set in Houston and follows Jennifer Spencer, a young lawyer, who while volunteering for the United States Senate campaign of Warren McDonald, suspects his incumbent opponent is financing his run illegally under the table. Her hunch turns into an international investigation involving Russian hit men, Colombian drug cartels and evil gun lobbyists.

Odam says none of this is based on fact, but it does point out a few flaws in the system. Many of the laws regarding finance haven't changed, says Odam, who has had a lot of experience in the political finance world aside from his time with Obama. He had a hand in Jimmy Cater's run for President and ran under the Democratic Party for Attorney General in 1990 and Senate in 1996. Both runs were unsuccessful, but Odam says he did learn a lot about how to run campaign and has since put his knowledge to work in book form.

At first, he shelved The Candidate Conspiracy after he first wrote it; by the time he got it back down off the shelf, he said, there weren't many edits to make.

"In terms of changes, the only thing, as I've gone through and edited, would be more to update it like some references to ... 9/11 or to maybe more e-mail or use the word Blackberry - just technology updates that make it more relevant," he says.

Odam says there's never been much governmental policing of finance.

"If there's illegality in fundraising or giving it's really up to opposing campaigns or the press to find out about it because we don't have enough election police on staff to go through it," he says.

His novel takes this weak point and runs (all the way around the world) with it. Odam says the international element was inspired during a trip to see his daughter in Moscow.

"I was in a foreign country and thought 'why couldn't (illegal funds) come from here?' and I thought 'Why not?'" Odam says. "They're as interested in picking up the newspaper and reading who the next President of the United States is."

His answer to "Why couldn't it happen?" was "Well, it could. So I created a scenario where it did," Odam says.

Odam will be at Blue Willow Bookshop from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday signing copies of his latest books and discussing it and any other questions you might have, like you know, what are the chances his fiction could become non-fiction? 

-- Dusti Rhodes   

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