The rhetoric's getting a little thick in here but I still feel the urge to click my campaign finance reformer heels together in glee that the issue of lobbyist influence is getting top billing as an issue in the presidential campaign. Sure, since the Beltway was paved candidates have been campaigning on their distance outside of it, but this discussion is getting at a real question: just who is shaping the message and campaign of our next President?
The attention around the active and (or very recently active) lobbyists staffing Senator John McCain's campaign has served to invite deeper examination of McCain's credentials as a reformer -- and that accountability is a good thing. It's also invited scrutiny of the Obama and Clinton campaigns and proved that this is an issue that voters care about, and embodies larger concerns that must be addressed.
Chief among these is a sense that even as campaigns make ever more nakedly desperate efforts to paint candidates as men and women "of the people" -- standing in fields of wheat as the flag waves overhead the candidate (attired in denim) intones a folksy message over a swell of patriotic music -- the people that drive the priorities of the campaign are K Street insiders and wealthy donors.
Are lobbyists all bad people who should be driven from the Capitol? Despite all the desirable real estate that would free up -- no. But when you're campaigning to lead our country, we want to make sure that the people running your campaign are working on behalf of the voters you want to make your constituents -- not the industries and other special interests they've been taking paychecks from.