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After all the twittering has died down about the New York Times  story about Senator John McCain and his "relationship" with lobbyist Vicki Iseman,  perhaps we can pay attention to the real story. The true issue here is not whether McCain had a romantic relationship with Iseman but that her regular presence in his work life helped her influence him. It is almost impossible to believe that he wasn't swayed by the flights she helped arrange on private planes, the money she helped raised for his campaigns, and her presence as a friend and advisor. It certainly looks bad and gives citizens one more reason to distrust elected officials and government.

Legislators at all levels need to recognize that the appearance of influence peddling is as real as them receiving inducements to vote one way or the other. The damage goes far beyond each individual incident. It creates an appearance of government being dishonest of elected and appointed officials all being on th take. Citizens then feel like they can't trust government, they don't want to support candidates (who then need more money from special interests for their campaigns,) fewer people are interested in running for office and the list goes on.   

Transparencies, openness, honesty all make a big difference.  Hopefully all of our public servants – elected and appointed – are listening and learning.  

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The folks who take care of our roads, bridges, buses, trains and bike paths seem to have a hard time understanding the rules.  First, the Board of Transportation which makes decisions about where roads and bridges are built, what gets repaired and when, regulations for oversize loads and trucks on our highways, etc… is discovered to spend almost as much time in the business of fundraising for candidates as they do making sure that our roads are adequate and safe. (About a million dollars in five years from the Board members and their families.)

Then the blue ribbon panel appointed to figure out our transportation needs for the 21st century decides to skirt open meeting laws and have a dinner, for social purposes only of course, on Figure 8 Island–a private community that most of us will never get to visit. Among the people who are on the panel and who benefit from this social time is at least one lobbyist who is no longer supposed to have the benefit of “social time” with legislators. Even the host of the dinner, Lanny Wilson, who is a major Democratic fundraiser, and also sits on the Board of Transportation, couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t discuss business.

Rep. Becky Carney is to be congratulated for being concerned about how it looked.  It didn’t look good.

Since it is our money and our roads they are discussing, it might be a good idea if the did it in public. North Carolinians work hard for their money and they would like to know how it might be spent. A little openness and transparency is called for here