A report by the Associated Press into hearings attended or held by U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem shed light on an issue that wasn't particularly in the shadows to begin with.
The story, printed in Tuesday's paper, noted that witnesses at two Noem hearings in the past four months were also campaign contributors to Noem, giving more than $19,000 to the freshman representative from South Dakota.
It would also stand to reason that, in holding a hearing, invited witnesses would share a certain point of view with the sponsor. Some overlap is to be expected.
Someone like Noem is in a tricky position. She is South Dakota's lone member of the House, so she is under a greater scrutiny than maybe some other House members are. Noem also occupies a seat at the GOP leadership table, representing her large freshmen class among the larger Republican group.
Her small state, however, means that it might not be so unusual that she draws from a narrower pool of witnesses for hearings, such as the two recent ones on a mountain pine beetle epidemic in the Black Hills and about farm dust.
That doesn't take away from concerns that all Americans should have about the effectiveness and validity of those hearings.
The perception is not that the representative and the panelists share similar opinions, rather, that those who contribute the most get perks, such as hearings on their favored topics, with the donors presented as "experts" on the subject.
A regulation stating that campaign donors cannot act as witnesses might be in order, across the board, for all politicians.
Barring that, transparency is key. Lists of campaign donors are usually available for any citizen to see, but those connections should be made even more clear at hearings.