Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Political Campaigns

By Ronald J. Hrebenar; Matthew J. Burbank et al. | Go to book overview

The campaigns for some propositions have been quite inexpensive, whereas others rival the most expensive U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns. A 1988 California initiative campaign financed by five insurance companies totaled $101 million. The same year saw $21 million (tobacco companies) and $8 million ( National Rifle Association) campaigns in California. The 1998 California proposition dealing with Native American casinos recorded well over $100 million in total spending as Native American nations poured about $85 million into their effort and Las Vegas gambling interests spent over $45 million in an unsuccessful effort to protect the billions of dollars at stake in their industry. Some less controversial propositions can get by on shoestring budgets with almost no expenditures for media. These campaigns largely rely on free media for the communication of their supporting arguments to the voting public. These campaigns can succeed only if they are unopposed, and even in that case there is no guarantee of victory, since voters will vote against propositions they have heard little about.


Conclusion: The Role of Campaigns In Linking Political Parties and Interest Groups

Contemporary interest groups are frequent campaigners. They campaign in initiative and referendum campaigns as they seek to pass laws that they desire while bypassing state legislatures and other governmental institutions that may obstruct their goals. Media campaigns are also important tactics for many interest groups. They seek to establish reservoirs of goodwill in the public for future issue campaigns, present their defense of existing policies, or argue their demands for policy changes. Grassroots campaigns are run to supplement insider campaigns by professional lobbyists working in Washington, D.C., or the various state capitals. Grassroots efforts attempt to activate membership, selected publics, or the general public to exert pressure by forwarding supportive communications to the intended target--usually political but sometimes private organizations.

Many interest group campaigns proceed simultaneously. This is a major change in the general area of campaigns. At one time several years ago, the word "campaign" was understood (with the few exceptions from states such as California) to mean political party election campaigns. Now a campaign is more likely to mean an interest group campaign, since they seem to be part of every month of the year, unlike party campaigns, which are concentrated around our two-year cycle of fixed elections. The health care reform campaign, discussed at the beginning of this chapter, may be the greatest interest group issue campaign in American political history. But it is certainly not the last major issue campaign. It served as the model for other issue campaigns that followed it in the mid-1990s, and as the unoffi

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