Has money killed real political conversation in America?

That was the question being discussed at a panel featuring The Nation's John Nichols, Lee Fang, Mickey Edwards and Mark Leibovich at this year's Tucson Book Festival.

"Once upon a time, politics existed beyond Washington—it existed in this place called America," Nichols said. "You had local newspapers, local radio stations, local TV stations that gave you something other than the weather. And we actually had some sort of discourse. That's over. [There's] staggeringly limited coverage of anything that isn't happening in Washington."

Lee Fang went on to describe the culture of corruption on Capitol Hill, pointing to the blurred lines between industries and their regulators. “You see the lobbyists on television who are giving you the news, but they’re not disclosed as lobbyists," he said. "They’re portrayed as independent Republican or Democratic strategists when in fact they’re working for the industries that they’re talking about.”

—Nadia Kanji