Once-noble media consultant Pete St. John (Richard Gere) is now employed by a number of corrupt politicians. A potential client is Jerome Cade (J.T. Walsh), a businessman who wants to run for U.S. Senate. St. John begins to suspect that Cade may have significant dark secrets and starts investigating. This causes conflict with Arnold Billing (Denzel Washington), a ruthless member of Cade's staff. Meanwhile, St. John's former friend and partner, Wilfred (Gene Hackman), questions his motives.