The Money Matters

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This Washington Post editorial nicely illustrates why it's dangerous to get caught up in a debate about lobbyists, and miss the larger concern about the influence of private money on public policy from which all this debate stems.

Attention to Sen. McCain's lobbyist-heavy staff must not dilute the real question at the center of this debate: "The real problem is the distorting influence on public policy of moneyed interests; lobbyists are merely a particularly efficient delivery vehicle for the money that candidates need to satisfy their fundraising habits."

The editorial illustrates the difficulty in getting into a technical debate about lobbyists doing campaign work, when the real problem is not the lobbyists but the money they direct and the tremendous influence the sector and its clients can exert via campaign contributions.

We're going to continue to demand accountability from McCain on conflict of interest inherent to his employing so many lobbyists on his campaign precisely because of this larger problem of campaign money. Sen. McCain could do himself a big favor by returning to his previous enthusiastic support for full public financing of campaigns at the federal level -- it would go a long way towards erasing the perception that special interests have too much influence on his campaign.