The ethical boundaries in all this aren't always obvious. Virtually everyone I worked with or wrote for had an ax to grind....
Who decides whether such a potential conflict is sufficiently
direct to matter? In 1987, I was paid to help a presidential candidate develop a plan to privatize Social Security. Does that mean I can never have a legitimate opinion on the issue or that politician ever again? And what is an aspiring ideologue to do if he believes something in principle and the person or group
willing to offer support to write about it has an economic interest in the outcome?
I don't think that's a particularly difficult dilemma. The answer to that question and others Bandow poses in his column is transparency. Let your readers decide. If you write about Social Security, tell them how much you received from which candidate and when. If you accepted cash from Abramoff to write about one of his clients, tell your readers. The marketplace will soon tell you if you crossed some sort of ethical or credibility line.
(Actually, your conscience will tell you first: if the payment is something you'd be embarrassed to put in a disclaimer at the end of an article--and the Abramoff payments must have fallen under that heading--you've probably become a whore.)