Is it “anything goes” now in America’s campaign finance system?

John Edwards is acquitted of using campaign cash as hush money. There’s an explosion of high-dollar super political action committees in the presidential race. It’s all stoking criticism of revisions and regulatory loopholes in a system that was intended to keep better control of political money after Watergate.

Loosening the law has made it easier for politicians to butt up against the legal line _ if not cross it _ and for wealthy Americans to influence who wins office, from the White House on down.

All told, the immense amount of money in American campaigns, the cozy relationships between candidates and their financial backers _ and now, too, a seeming lack of accountability for alleged rule-breakers _ is fueling the public’s long-standing distrust of its politicians and doubts about the credibility of the system.