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.