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Does The Amount Of Money An Interest Group Pose Mean More Influence?

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In our democratic society, we vote to elect our political representatives at the state and federal levels. State voters ultimately decide who will represent them at a national level in Washington D.C. and the United States Congress. Each congressional district on the House side is up for re-election every two years and every six years on the Senate side. These elected officials represent their constituents and decide what federal legislation is written and how much funding can be directed back to the state that they represent. This federal funding can be directed back to the state to support a multitude of interest areas. Some examples are health care, housing, community development, child care, job training, transportation, clean water, and public education. Each state fights for adequate funding at the federal level every year to maintain its current funding levels and advocates for more funding for new priorities. This is where interest and advocacy groups come into play to sway influence where the funding ends up.

“Among democracies, it is in the United States that interest group activity is most accepted and displays the widest range of tactics. The lobbying profession, both at the federal and the state level (and increasingly at the local government level), is highly developed. In regard to lobbyists in Washington, D.C., in newspapers and other popular writings, they are often talked about in connection with the terms “K Street” and “Gucci Gulch,” as it is on K Street that many of the contract lobbying firms are located, and the corridors in the Capitol where lobbyists congregate have been nicknamed for the expensive shoes and garments they often wear. Increasingly, however, American-style tactics have been adopted in other democracies and in transitional systems as ideology, and the centralization of the policy process has been eroded.” 1

There are three major types of interest groups; public interest, underpaid professional workers, and business, corporation, and trade organization groups. Each one uniquely represents a specific demographic for a specific purpose.

Public interest groups claim to work not for self-interest, but for the best interest of the public. An example of a public interest group would be People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) or Green peace. The second type of interest group associate with underpaid professional workers. Some can argue this type of interest group isn’t that underpaid. Some examples of an underpaid interest group are lawyers belonging to the American Bar Association, doctors belonging to the American Medical Association, and teachers belonging to the National Education Association. There are also interest groups that are powerful organizations that identify as Labor unions such as the AFL-CIO and the Teamsters Union. These interest groups protect workers in factories or businesses which yield a lot of influence. The third most common type of interest group is formed around businesses, corporations, and trade associations. This group represents about half of all interest groups in Washington D.C. The average person thinks interest groups have a wide influence throughout our government resulting in special privileges for people who already have more money and power than most. An example of a business, corporation, and trade organization group is the oil and tobacco industries. They each have large interest groups who promote their respective interests on Capitol Hill. The key resource in all these interest groups is funding and well-funded interest groups tend to have more influence.

Most well-resourced interest groups actively involve themselves in most if not all political campaigns. Most politicians listen to people and groups who can donate lots of money to their cause. An interest group’s end goal is to help elect candidates who favor their positions and negatively affect those who oppose them. These large well-funded political arms of interest groups are called Political Action Committees (PACs). Since the 1970s the amount of PACs has increased tremendously to try and sway influence. The start of the increase was when campaign finance reform laws were passed to restrict contributions to campaigns. Some can argue PACs have changed the face of American elections because of the amount of money they can generate and contribute. PACs can accept checks from contributors for the sole purpose of the campaign. PACs give the contributors the ability to support or oppose an issue that they want to be represented resulting in greater influence for their interests. PACs can play hardball by funding opposing candidates to punish the politicians they have normally supported in the past who have been neglecting their issues. “Interest groups are not allowed to donate money to campaigns directly, but they can contribute money through their Political Action Committee (PAC). Theoretically independent of interest groups, PACs can solicit donations from group members and then give that money to candidates they support. A PAC can only give $10,000 ($5,000 in the primary campaign, $5,000 in the general election campaign) to each candidate during an election, but they can give money to as many candidates as they wish.” 2 Our democratic system is on a cycle that is tied to the President’s budget. This cycle is systematic and on a similar timeline from the years past.

To maintain contact before the new year’s President budget interests group storm the Hill every year all about the same time. Interest groups send representatives to Capitol Hill to put pressure on members of Congress and policymakers explaining why they need their money and what will happen in their specific state if they don’t support their effort. The designated representatives gain congressional access through a lobbyist.

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A lobbyist is the main way of messaging agendas to political leaders. A lobbyist defined as ”a person who takes part in an organized attempt to influence legislators.” 3

An interest group also can testify in congressional hearings to sway opinions on specific matters. The end goal of any interest group is to directly influence policymakers and political figures through various means. I will try and show in this paper the larger amount of money an interest group has is what allows them a greater ability to spread their message or influence. This influence is conducted through wide and various messaging campaigns to try and sway both the Congressional representative but also the constituent population back in the home state. To conduct these messaging campaigns, adequate funding is required to send the message.

Interest groups rely heavily on resources to convey their message and agenda to a specific population or Congressional representative. The US dollar is probably the single most important factor in an interest group’s success. The irony is even with large cash flow and enough money, interest groups hardly need a group to sway opinions. Interest groups also play outside games by trying to convince ordinary citizens to apply pressure on their government representatives. “Interest groups playing the outside game often rely on grassroots activism and electoral strategies to achieve their goals.

Grassroots Activism consists of mobilizing large numbers of people to achieve the interest group’s goal. By mobilizing thousands (or millions) of voters, an interest group can demonstrate to government officials that the public strongly supports its particular cause. Some grassroots efforts are general, trying to motivate as many people as possible, whereas others are more targeted. An interest group, for example, might target a member of Congress by holding rallies in his or her district and encouraging his or her constituents to write letters. A member of Congress who receives tens of thousands of letters endorsing health care reform, for example, is likely to pay attention to the group that sponsored the letter-writing campaign. In fact, most grassroots activists rely on a number of tactics to achieve their goals.” 4 An example of grassroots activism is by staging a mass rally in Washington D.C. This rally is a sign that a group has large and vast influence. This type of event is a huge bonding experience to those in attendance and can make US history. There are many grassroots events throughout history with one of the famous ones being in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech. This grassroots event was a watershed in the civil rights movement. These types of grassroots events require significant funding but make a significant impact on our nation. The ability to generate funding is significantly important when it comes to public elections.

Everyone who has ever been around a public office election realizes that money is especially important for elections. The amount of money generated can make or break a campaign for reelection, especially in a Congressional district or state. Interest groups tend to help candidates who favor their causes with generous campaign donations and fundraising events that generate campaign money for a specific candidate. It has been recognized that most democracies around the world are dangerously close between interest groups and candidates. It has even been said by Dan Rather, that “we have the best Congress that money can buy”, because of the amount of money it takes to be elected. The reality of political election our system requires a Congressional candidate to raise a certain amount of money to be elected or to maintain their current office. Certain interest groups make sure that enough campaign donations are received for their candidate. In turn, when the candidate is elected and holds office a payback for campaign services is usually rendered for their generous donations. This interest group in a roundabout way has now paid for access and placement for a seat at the table in the United States Congress. Without the right amount of campaign donations, the candidate would never be able to compete or maintain office and now they feel inclined to help the organizations that helped them either win or stay elected. Campaign donations used to be capped, but in 2009 the United States Supreme Court lifted limits on direct corporate giving. This controversial decision by the Supreme Court gave corporations the green light to freely spend to support or oppose candidates for President or Congress. Now special interest money can sway politics in our nation and give large institutions like Wall Street, health care companies, and other power groups the ability to influence Washington D.C. and drown out the voice of the everyday constituent these political appointees are supposedly representing. An example of this is prevalent in the agricultural communities of US peanut, sugar, corn, and cotton growers who give generously to candidates, and magically in return, they receive federal subsidies to support their industry. The two industries that spend the most money are healthcare and financial industries that contribute to both parties and in return receive ample consideration for their agendas. This type of campaign transaction is relatively straight forward and easy to track and understand. There is another form of money transaction that is called soft money and it is more challenging to trace and understand where the money is really coming from.

Soft money is a contribution to a political party that is not accounted towards going to a particular candidate, thus avoiding various legal limitations. This is a form of indirectly transferring money to buy or gain influence while bypassing the legal guidelines for campaign donation regulation and other regulations that a pollical appointee must follow. In our political system in the United States, it is not required by law to publicly show where the campaign financing comes from for several reasons. First, we are Americans and we place a strong emphasis on freedom. The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the first amendment to include dollars as a form of free speech. Meaning a person or group can donate a lot of money towards something and it’s no one’s business how much or where the money came from. In this country, we view a political donation to a candidate or cause as a political statement and it doesn’t have to be reported. Second, some will say that our political campaigns in the United States are much longer and more expensive than anywhere else in the world. This can be the result of our weak decentralized parties and nominating system. I would equate the use of soft money as using a “cut out” to hide your true identity while spreading or gaining influence by establishing groups or funneling money to oppose your opposition. “For the longest time, campaign ads were almost exclusively produced by candidates and political parties, but in recent years outside issue groups have been getting in on the action. They often operate as so-called 527 committees (taking their name from the relevant section of the IRS tax code). Sometimes mysteriously named, these advocacy groups frequently have ties to labor, big business, and super-wealthy individuals. Unlike political committees, they can accept unlimited contributions from just about anyone, and they deploy that money in various ways to influence elections. Keep an eye on these shadowy groups here.” 5 Now you have a way to wage a war against the opposition and establish random new groups to clutter the field and hide your true identity. Some individuals and political action

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Does The Amount Of Money An Interest Group Pose Mean More Influence? (2021, September 20). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 7, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/does-the-amount-of-money-an-interest-group-pose-mean-more-influence/
“Does The Amount Of Money An Interest Group Pose Mean More Influence?” Edubirdie, 20 Sept. 2021, edubirdie.com/examples/does-the-amount-of-money-an-interest-group-pose-mean-more-influence/
Does The Amount Of Money An Interest Group Pose Mean More Influence? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/does-the-amount-of-money-an-interest-group-pose-mean-more-influence/> [Accessed 7 Oct. 2022].
Does The Amount Of Money An Interest Group Pose Mean More Influence? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 20 [cited 2022 Oct 7]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/does-the-amount-of-money-an-interest-group-pose-mean-more-influence/
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