Putting McCain to the Ethics Test

John McCain's political popularity rests on his reputation as a straight-talking, ax-wielding reformer. So how does he explain his own close ties to special-interest lobbyists?

Timothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty

Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.

The U.S. Senate is a lousy launching pad for sainthood, a place of compromise and backslaps, of hidden doors that lead to gilded rooms where the real work gets done. To succeed is to succumb, often to the courtship of big-ticket donors.

And yet for more than a decade,John McCain has claimed to truck with angels. He condemns his colleagues who earmark bridges or bike trails, often at the request of contributors. When a powerful trade group is arrayed against him, he bellows, "The fix is in." He exploded with contempt...

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