I do some political consulting. I keep what I do for candidates separate from what I write about here because there are important ethical principles at work. If I'm providing advice to someone and I have access to privileged campaign information I need to keep that out of what I write here. It does provide context and background to other information and, if I receive the same information completely independently of those I'm involved with on a campaign (I get lots of emails, for example) then that is a legitimate source and a legitimate story. I have to keep a wall of separation between the paid consulting and the blogging.
Consultants have lots of conflicts of interest. The one above is mine. I try and maintain high ethical standards and test my judgments regularly on this basis. Some of you assist me in that, LOL. The culture of political consultants in major campaigns is something else entirely however. The Clinton campaign is unlike any other significant Democratic operation (not being familiar with GOP operations I'll stick to my Party here) in that they are paying vast amounts of money to DC consultants.
Here's the rub: these same advisers are advising the campaigns to hire their own firms to do the work they advise the candidate to do for the campaign. For example, one consultant may own or be a principal in a large bulk, direct mail company. While working for, and being paid by a campaign to develop strategic advice, they advise that the campaign should engage in a large direct mail strategy as opposed to a major field (ground) operation. Resources are always finite, even on a presidential campaign so decisions must be made. So guess what company gets that direct mail business? Theirs.
When this happens in government we call it corruption. (If a public official steers public business to his own company he goes to jail.) In our campaigns it's called business as usual. It happens in every major facet of a campaign. Campaign managers design a strategy maximizing major media: radio and television because they own the firm which makes and places (for a 15% commission to their firm from the networks) the commercials. These are huge conflicts of interest and we must begin to separate the campaign consultants from placing business with their own firms.
This corrupts the process because the consultant's primary goal is not necessarily winning the race but lining their pockets. Next year they go on to another Congressional, Senate or presidential campaign. They lose nothing. We need to institute rules which prohibit such financial conflicts of interest. Barring that each responsible candidate must place such restrictions in their consulting contracts.
The Washington Post has a long article today about the Clinton campaign and Mark Penn. In it they highlight such a case. In this example it has cause unnecessary friction. Penn is being criticized, justifiably, for hiring his own firm to test the commercials HE is developing for the Clinton campaign. He should be using an independent, outside firm for this work.
This is about ethics. We either have them or we do not. There is no replacement for ethics and we keep losing important elections because the consultants can be more concerned with their own financial stake than the country's.