The battle of political funding in the halls of Congress is over for this year. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) introduced a bill to eliminate "soft money" contributions to people running for office. Members of McCain's Republican Party beat the daylights out of him because of the bill. They were led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

McConnell insisted that soft money political contributions do not corrupt the system. He said, "How can there be corruption unless someone is corrupted?"

The real questions are: Does someone have to be corrupt to get involved in corrupt legislation, and how much does a contribution to a candidate affect a crucial Senate vote?

This is not an unheard-of illustration.

A senator's secretary says, "Harry Tantmount of the Falcon Snowplow Industry is waiting to see you."

"What has he done for me lately?"

"He bought six tables for your wife's birthday party and a full-page ad in the program. He's fighting air bags on snowplows."

"And he thinks he can see me just for a lousy six tables and an ad?"

"Our people told him he could see you if he put your election bumper stickers on all his snowplows."

"All right, let him in. But make sure he doesn't take more than one picture with me. I have to meet with the junk bond lobby."

"Sir, we scoured the country for money, but we've come up short by $2 million."

"How are we doing with the smokestack people?"

"They've chipped in $100,000, but they would like to see some opposition from you to any new anti-pollution laws."

"No one seems satisfied with what I do for them. Who else is out there?"

"Paul Bunyan of the Save the Redwoods Foundation."

"How much did he give?"

"Nothing. He's against political contributions."

"Then why did the guards let him in the Senate building? No one can run a government without election contributions."

"I told him that, but he said he has as much right to see you as someone who plays golf with you at Burning Tree club and drops a check in your golf bag. He's a real hard-nose."

"He apparently has a bad attitude, and I don't have time to see some lobbyist who doesn't put his soft money where his mouth is."

"Exactly my thoughts. If he has something to say and doesn't put anything in our tin cup, he can tell his story to us by e-mail."

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate