Political Interest Groups and Presidential Elections
Within the United States and other democratic nations political interest groups are among "the most important institutions that define the character of the political system" (Thomas & Lynne, 3). Political interest groups are among other things a liaison between the public and government officials. Political interest groups often invest heavily in Presidential elections. Why? Ultimately political interest groups are interested in having their agenda pushed through during a given session. This means most political groups will do anything and everything necessary to get a candidate elected that sides with their interests. The electoral process as it stands now is set up to ensure a candidate is elected that will represent the interests and needs of the people. Because political interest groups represent the needs of certain groups of people within the U.S., they are an important aspect of most presidential campaigns.
The Influence Of Interest Groups In Campaigns
One example of a political interest group that recently influenced a presidential election is the case of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth. This organization recently influenced the John Kerry and President Bush campaign. A nonprofit organization, the Swift Boats recently paid for a highly damaging campaign within the media suggesting that John Kerry presidential hopeful lied about his service in Vietnam. The nonprofit organization was able to spend money and place ads on television that were not subject to the regulations in place by the federal regulatory commission which currently monitors ads endorsed by presidential electorates. It is very likely that these ads, which portrayed John Kerry in a negative light, swayed more than one voter to Bushes side. The intent of the ads was to get the message across that not only was John Kerry a liar, but also an individual that would not stand the test of time and fight for his country when needed.
Political interest groups however do have freedom of speech. They provide a forum or support network if you will of people that support a common cause or position. Because these groups are often comprised of citizens, they are recognized and supported throughout the nation.
Benedict, Burbank & Hrebenar (1999) suggest that political groups including interest groups are "the essence of contemporary American politics" (p. 1). Political interest groups often are considered more powerful than political parties themselves, largely because of the influence they hold over ordinary people. Interest groups often also get more attention than formal political parties (Benedict, et. al, 1999). Part of interest groups strength lies in their lobbying power, which is the process of basically pressuring government agents to sway one way or another with respect to important legislation.
Political interest groups invest their time and energy in a wide range of activities that often according to some "challenge political parties traditional campaign lair" (Benedict, et. al, 1). Presidential elections are a prime target for political interest groups in part because they provide a superb forum or arena for interest groups to get their views known to larger groups of potential supporters.
Political interest groups have actively participated in elections since the dawn of time. The Republican party during the 1850s was influenced by abolitionist interest groups that "used the party as a vehicle to pursue their policy goal of ending slavery" (Benedict, et. al, 4). Labor unions, also considered a powerful political interest groups, exhibited much pressure and force over party campaigns and elections through the early 1930s (Benedict, et. al, 4).
Some may go as far to consider American elections as a battleground for political parties and interests groups to battle their causes (Benedict, et. al 1999). Part of the attraction again of electoral campaigns is the tremendous media attention and ability to influence voters that are easily swayed or have not yet made up their mind regarding a particularly candidate. Political interest groups not only influence presidential elections, but also have influenced government and public campaigns targeted at electing local officials.
Part of the power that interest groups have lies in the money they have to back their cause and campaigns (Thomas & Rienner, 2001). The federal government currently places limitations on the amount of money presidential candidates or other officials can spend within an election. There is only so much media coverage a candidate can buy. Interest groups however, often backed by wealthy supporters, can infuse as much money as they desire into…