George Washington's first campaign for the Virginia House of Burgesses was eased by the distribution of a quart and a half of spirits per voter -- and thus early on the Republic proceeded to establish political customs such as vote buying, kickbacks and patronage which through the years have become more elaborate and complex with the growth of campaign machines, mass media propaganda, lobbying, labor pressures and corporate contributions. Money Tree is a scattershot and somewhat ambivalent examination of campaign financing, and Thayer, like a dog digging a hole, isn't really looking for much. Still the dirt flies. One can't help feeling that they're all crooks as he feeds us figures like the $400 million spent in the 1972 campaigns, but then Thayer fluffs off the expense by noting that it's only a tiny fraction of the Gross National Product. He implies that some, but by no means many, of the business contributors have ulterior motives such as contract jobbing, injunction squelching, or fining agencies and courts -- all the while assuring us that American democracy has not decayed as he indicates other fat-cat motives for giving, like the desire to support a winner, to gain prestige, to hobnob with celebrities and to secure a peace candidate. An obligatory few pages of solutions -- higher tax exemptions for small contributors, regulation of monopolies, a vigilant press and a better informed public -- complete this numbers-laden but conceptually watery muckrake.