Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process

Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process

Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process

Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process

Synopsis

Choices and Changesis the most comprehensive examination to date of the impact of interest groups on recent American electoral politics. Richly informed, theoretically and empirically, it is the first book to explain the emergence of aggressive interest-group electioneering tactics in the mid-1990s-including "soft money" contributions, issue ads, and "527s" (IRS-classified political organizations). Michael Franz argues that changing political and legal contexts have clearly influenced the behaviour of interest groups. To support his argument, he tracks in detail the evolution of campaign finance laws since the 1970s, examines all soft money contributions-nearly $1 billion in total-to parties by interest groups from 1991 to 2002, and analyzes political action committee (PAC) contributions to candidates and parties from 1983 to 2002. He also draws on his own interviews with campaign finance leaders. Based on this rigorous data analysis and a formidable knowledge of its subject,Choices and Changessubstantially advances our understanding of the significance of interest groups in U. S. politics.

Excerpt

October 11, 2000, was typical of most days in the final frantic weeks before the November elections. The New York Times reported in its “Campaign Briefing” that Congressman Clay Shaw was attacking his opponent Elaine Bloom on prescription drugs, that Ralph Nader had given a harsh speech the previous day on vehicle safety standards, and that, of the four candidates in the previous week's presidential and vice presidential debates, Joe Lieberman had used the “brainiest language.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on that day that Bush was campaigning in Tennessee and winning there in the latest poll and that Gore's Southern strategy was based on upsetting Bush in Florida.

And on this very normal day, deep into the 2000 election, candidates, parties, and interest groups raised and spent campaign funds. The Walt Disney Corporation's Political Action Committee (PAC) in Washington, D.C., for example, made seven candidate contributions of $1,000 each, six to incumbent House Democrats and one to an incumbent Republican Congressman. The money used to pay for these contributions was raised in small amounts by Disney's PAC, and the PAC abided to an upper limit in the total amount given to each candidate for that election cycle. In other words, the PAC used “hard money.” All told, almost 300 PACs contributed $1,966,344 in hard money that day.

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