Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process

By Michael M. Franz | Go to book overview

7 Tracking the Regulatory Context

In this chapter, I shift from a focus on how the ideological and partisan context structures interest group electoral goals (which in turn drive tactical choices) to a discussion of how the regulatory context structures the capacity to act in campaigns—which (also) affects tactical choices. At the outset, it makes sense to assume that political actors are concerned about whether innovative or untested tactics have criminal, civil, or political penalties to their employment. After all, “Federal campaign law is a freakish mess.”1

Indeed, between 1977 and 2003, more than 1,200 candidates, parties, and interest groups sought official legal counsel from the FEC, giving us insight into common questions and interpretations about the scope of campaign finance law. For example, in 1979, Rexnord, Inc., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, asked the FEC if it could use corporate funds to pay for a newspaper advertisement that said simply, “Please Register to Vote” (AO 1979-48). The company considered such activity a generic public service. The FEC responded that the proposal as conceived could be funded only with regulated PAC funds. We learn a lot from the example. First, questions about regulated and unregulated political communications to the public date back further than we might assume (a point made in Chapter 2); second, the FEC was tough in its interpretation of the boundaries of regulated election activity.

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Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1: The Puzzle of Interest Group Electioneering 1
  • 2: Election Law and Electoral Politics Between Feca and Bcra 15
  • 3: A Theory of Emergent and Changing Interest Group Tactics 51
  • 4: Putting Pacs in (Political) Context(S) 75
  • 5: Understanding Soft Money 95
  • 6: Following 527s and Watching Issue Advocacy 118
  • 7: Tracking the Regulatory Context 145
  • 8: Conclusion 172
  • Appendix: Pac Ideology Measure 189
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 217
  • Political Science and Public Policy/American Studies 229
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