If you need a reminder of how corrupt American politics can be, check out this Harper's magazine article about a sting that editor Ken Silverstein conducted against Beltway lobbyists last year where he posed as a representative of a company with business interests in Turkmenistan, a Stalinist-type former Soviet republic with a horrendous human rights record but plenty of natural gas that the company was interested in doing some image-polishing for in Washington. Junkets for members of Congress? Sit-downs with think-tanks where Silverstein a.k.a. Kenneth Case* would control the agenda? Bullshit op-ed pieces that "respected" academics would sign their name to and publish in major newspapers? It makes for compelling reading.
* Silverstein said in a CBC radio interview that he took Case as his alias, by the way, because of his fondness for singer Neko Case.