The final round of the French presidential election is just three months away, but the race is already dirtier than the one in the United States last year. All three front-runners — independent center-left politician Emmanuel Macron, center-right candidate Francois Fillon and nationalist populist Marine Le Pen — have faced accusations of financial wrongdoing.

French voters are cynical about their politicians. Last summer, a survey by Harris Interactive for the French office of Transparency International found that 54 percent of the French believe their country's elite to be corrupt, for the most part. That share goes up to about three quarters for local and European legislators, the president and the national government. Scandals are part of daily life, and they won't necessarily affect the outcome of the election, but the circus is in full swing, anyway.

Last week, Fillon announced grimly that he'd stay in the race despite revelations that he'd paid his family members about $1 million out of his parliamentary budget for services opponents claim were never rendered. Juicy details just kept coming: He'd paid his wife Penelope a severance fee after laying her off as his aide; he'd employed his sons for legal services though they hadn't been qualified lawyers; he'd paid them all more than the going rates for parliamentary aides. All this from someone who took the high moral ground as he fought for the center-right nomination, using their own financial scandals against rivals Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppe. Fillon said he regretted the actions, but explained it had all been legal (indeed, France has lax rules on nepotism) and accepted custom at the time; 65 percent of French voters were unconvinced.