The third secondary source we will look at here is Kaiser (2009). Kaiser argues that money has corroded the electoral process in the United States. He gives statistical data on the rising cost of political campaigns as an indication of how money's importance has grown in the last several decades. If the campaigns of all the candidates for President, the House, and the Senate cost less than a billion dollars in 1976, in 2000 it was $2.8 billion (even if adjusted to the inflation), while in 2004 it was $4.2 billion. "This steady increase appears now to be a permanent fixture of our politics," he says (p. 290). Kaiser also gives examples of how money spent by individuals allowed them to win seats in the House or the Senate. For example, John Corzine, a retired investment banker and a Democrat, won a Senate seat from New Jersey in 2000 by spending $62 million of his own money.
Kaiser finds support for his arguments in the words of some members of Congress. "We let the lobbyists run it all because we have these big fund-raising dinners . . . Democrats and Republicans," Kaiser quotes Church Hagel, a Republican Senator from Nebraska. "And we raise $20 million, $25 million at these things [for the House and Senate campaign committees]. Who do we go to make sure that we get $20 to $25 million? I've run these dinners so I know what I'm talking about. You go to a committee of twenty-five lobbyists, a steering committee. And you say, Okay, you guys each have to come up with a million dollars. . . . So we go to them for that fast money" (p. 291). The lobbyists, of course, cannot be expected to make such large financial contributions just for the sake of supporting political campaigns. They expect their interests be represented in the Congress by those who receive their financial endowments.
Smith, Bartels, and Kaiser give sufficient data to support their arguments and demonstrate that money obviously affects political elections. But their overemphasis on how money affects elections and political decisions in Congress downplay the role of the average voter. For Smith, Bartels, and Kaiser, the median voter becomes virtually non-existent as a force influencing political elections. They also ignore the fact that many Senators and Congressmen represent various civil rights groups, public advocacy groups, consumer rights, and the working class. Not all of them are concerned about money only. Smith, Bartels, and Kaiser show the importance of money in political elections but ignore other factors that influence politicians.
The methodology used in this paper is case study. The paper looks at the case of lobby groups as an intermediary between voters and political elections. Money plays an important role in the relationship between voters and lobby groups and between lobby groups and political officeholders. The paper, for example, looks at the case of lobby groups and the way they functioned three decades ago and the way they function today. The paper also looks at the normal and deviating trends in discussing how lobby groups use money to influence national political elections. The main purpose of the paper and the use of this method is to understand the case of lobby groups. And the research on the functioning of lobby groups shows the importance of money in influencing national political elections.
The research findings show lobby groups have several functions. As Austen-Smith (1993) argues, lobby groups transmit specialized knowledge to less informed political officeholders. But that is what the public expects the lobby groups to do theoretically. In practice, the lobby groups may directly represent the interests of businesses and large corporations, which may have other interests than simply providing officeholders with relevant information. This paper finds that lobby groups act both as transmitters of specialized knowledge but and serve the interests of businesses and corporations. And because of the lobby groups' ability to influence political officeholders due to the availability of cash money provided by large corporations, elected officials cater more to the interests of the richer voter constituents, to the detriment of median and poor voters.
The paper also finds that election campaigns for Presidents, Senators, and Congressmen have become increasingly costly. What Kaiser (2009) says about the steady growth of the cost of political campaigns was most vividly demonstrated in 2010, when the mid-term election campaigns reached a $5 billion price tag ("The Nation," 2010). Greater sums of money raised and spent by the Republican candidates also paid off in their competition with Democrats for the seats in the House and the Senate. "In the House, GOP candidates reported raising $104 million from July through September, compared with $89 for Democrats," the Washington Post reported. "In the 18 top Senate races, Republicans brought in nearly $60 million; their Democratic opponents raised less than $40 million" (Farman & Eggen, 2010).
The arguments of Smith (2006) regarding the necessity of large sums of money to finance election campaigns is corroborated by a comprehensive study of how large funds help politicians win elections by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund (Derek, 2002). The paper also finds that Bartels' study of Senate elections in 1988-92 is indicative of a consistent trend, as the study of 1996 Senate elections by Goldstein and Freedman (2000) show. These findings are important on several grounds. Lobby groups still may act as providers of expert knowledge to the interested and less informed politicians, while the money factor changes the intended goals of lobby groups today in the United States. The increasing cost of political campaigns and elections raise serious questions about the health of American democracy, as politicians tend to cater more and more to the views and interests of the upper rich, while being less responsive to the middle class, and ignoring the views of the poor. The findings also raise important questions about the behavior and reputation of lobby groups. and, finally, the findings may partly explain the decreasing level of political participation among the poor and young people (Wattenberg, 2006).
The purpose of this paper was to address the questions posed at the beginning. How and to what extent money influences national political elections? What is the role of lobby groups in this? While addressing these questions, the paper found that lobby groups today have two main functions: transmitting specialized knowledge and representing the interests of businesses and corporations. Political campaigns are more costly today then they were three decades ago. As a result, political officeholders increasingly depend on financial contributions by businesses and corporations. Because of this relationship, the elected officials are obliged to address the interests of businesses and corporations. The officials caught between their willingness to address the views of median voter constituents and their obligation to address the interests of businesses and corporations tend to cater more to the latter group because of the increasing cost of elections and holding political offices. As was shown with examples, money directly influences national political elections. The money factor has also changed the intended functions of lobby groups. If the lobby groups were primarily transmitters of specialized knowledge in the past, today they are more and more act as intermediaries between officeholders and large businesses.
Austen-Smith, D. (1993) Information and Influence: Lobbying for Agendas and Votes. American Journal of Political Science, 37(3): 799-833.
Bartels, L.M. (2005) Economic Inequality and Political Representation. Unpublished paper. Retrieved on February 15, 2001, from http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/economic.pdf
Derek, C., ed. (2002) the Best Elections Money Can Buy. U.S. PIRG Education Fund Report. Retrieved on February 15, 2011, from http://cdn.publicinterestnetwork.org/assets/_8MuDgm1AnavpYKIfwgxSA/bestelections10_02.pdf.
Farman, T.W., & Eggen, D. (2010) Republican Congressional Candidates Race Ahead in Fundraising. Washington Post. Retrieved on February 15, 2011, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/16/AR2010101603236.html
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