Ralph Nader isn't playing by the rules and he doesn't seem to careRalph Nader's career as a presidential candidate is premised on stiff-chinned notions of moral superiority over leaders of the two major parties, a vanity that many believe handed the White House to George Bush in 2000.

The Washington Post reported Sunday Nader has been running his presidential campaign out of the same Washington, D.C., offices that until recently housed a charity he created. Federal law strictly prohibits mingling politics and charitable activities.

Nader immediately issued the kind of stern and unapologetic denial made famous by Richard Nixon. "There is nothing, no wrongdoing here."

But it's not as clear-cut as Nader would like us to believe.

The Post found many links between Nader's campaign and the charity, Citizen Works. For one thing, the charity's listed president, Theresa Amato, is also Nader's campaign manager. Amoto supposedly resigned from the charity in 2003 but still listed herself as president in a corporate filing earlier this year.

In other ways, Nader may be on more solid footing. For example, he says the campaign paid Citizen Works fair market value to rent office space and buy furniture.

As political scandals go, this one probably doesn't amount to much. But it is interesting.

First, Nader has portrayed himself as far above and beyond the kinds of shortcuts and compromises that are integral to politics, for better or worse. This episode shows even an ethical man can run afoul of the rules or fall a little short in living up to expectations.

Second, his unwillingness to even entertain the possibility that some laws may have been bent or broken, even by accident, adds to the body of evidence that Nader is incapable of humility or self-examination. Self-confidence is one thing, pig-headed arrogance another.

Finally, although Nader in some ways has more in common with a cult leader than a candidate, this should clue some who might vote for him as a protest gesture against the two parties that Nader, too, has flaws.

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