Money is the crack cocaine of American politics. It provides the rush and glitter of campaigns, but it also corrupts the soul.

Sunday, we learned that Democrats AND Republicans have dropped the ethical bar on their toes. The Maine Sunday Telegram reported that Republicans here also traded campaign money with another state in 2002 in order to evade campaign finance laws.

This time around, the amounts were even larger: $12,000 for Maine’s Dems but $78,400 for the state’s Republicans.

Last month, it was reported that the Maine Democratic Party had received money from Rhode Island backers of a candidate for governor who had maxed out their contributions to their candidate under that state’s laws.

The Maine party then donated the money back to the candidate, in effect allowing those donors to exceed the limit. The Maine Democrats received a 20 percent cut of the loot, or about $2,000.

The Blethen Maine Newspapers reported Sunday that in 2002 Republicans here cut a similar campaign finance deal. Four years ago, the Arizona Republican Party had given the maximum amount allowed under law to candidates in five states.

So, the Arizona party donated $78,400 to Maine’s party, which then donated the money to the same candidates in those five same states.

Dwayne Bickford, who was executive director of the Maine GOP in 2002, told the newspaper that “there was no quid pro quo” because the Arizona Republican Party did not earmark its gift to Maine for those five races.

Bickford would apparently have us believe that it was all coincidence, that money from Arizona is given to Maine party officials and they just happen to then give it all to the same out-of-state races that Arizona’s party was already supporting.

Well, that doesn’t pass the straight-face test for Republicans any more than it did for Democrats.

Technically, this horse-swapping of campaign money may be legal, but it’s clearly unethical. It’s the kind of practice that corrupts the system and causes Americans to lose faith in the process and in their elected leaders.

Politicians often talk about “family values” and “situational ethics.” But, given half an opportunity, too many don’t seem to understand the simple difference between right and wrong.

Ethics, after all, isn’t about what you say, it’s what you do. It’s not about following just the letter of the law, it’s about doing the right thing regardless.

Too many Americans are coming to believe George Wallace’s observation that there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two major parties, at least not when it comes to the corrupting influence of big money.

Obviously, this is a loophole in campaign finance laws that should be closed. However, we’ll never be able to get them all. At some point, we need to rely on the integrity of the people we trust.

Too many political leaders seem unworthy of that trust.