Political Parties and Interest Groups • As mentioned in the last chapter, interest groups are a united group of citizens that have banded together for a cause. • These causes could be for a specific issue or to support a certain religion or type of business. • Special interest groups help shape public policy by donating to campaigns, starting rallies, and by getting people organized. • Many political parties are at the mercy of these groups. • Good or bad, special interest have a major impact on politics today.
Political Parties and Interest Groups • Political parties and interest groups overlap in some ways. • Interest groups do not nominate anyone, are focused on one issue, and try to push their own agenda first. • A politician/political party do nominate candidates, look at a multitude of interests, and try to do what is the best for the public interest (and self preservation) first. • Interest groups are not accountable to anybody except itself. A politician is not as lucky.
Views on the Influence of Interest Groups • Interest groups have been around in America since the “Sons of Liberty”. • Lobbies help bring ideas and information forward.However, these ideas are always slanted towards their goal. • These groups represent people who have vital concerns. However, some of these people are crazy and their ideas are on the fringes of society. • Lobbies give people a cause to fight for and an avenue to do it, whether it is on a local or national level. • Interest groups also give political parties an idea of where “the people” stand on issues.
Criticisms of Special Interest Groups • Some people say that groups supply lots of money and that’s what politicians follow more than the social cause they fight for. • Some groups may speak a lot louder than the actual demand for the cause. • Many leaders of lobbies do not speak for the whole lobby or only fringe parts of it. • Many Americans feel that lobbies can lead to political corruption with bribery. • Many politicians seem to be beholden to their special interest supporters.
Types of Interest Groups • Some support environmental causes. • Others support social issues and concerns. • Other groups represent the labor groups and their interests. • Still, there are groups that represent big businesses. • There are also groups that represent the rights of certain individual groups of people. • Other groups look for morality issues. • Many groups exist only to create awareness about something.
Question Time • 1. What is the major difference between a special interest group and a political party? • 2. Why are special interest groups important to the political process? • 3. How are special interest groups important to the political process? • 4. What types of special interest groups are there?
Meet the Special Interests • Greenpeace: An environmentalist group dedicated to fighting whaling, overfishing, global warming, and nuclear power. • Sierra Club: A less radical environmentalist group for rich people. • Earth First: A super militant environmentalist group that borders on terrorism. • NRA: National Rifle Association. They stand up for hunting rights and are anti gun control. • NAACP: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They are a advocacy group protecting the civil rights of Black Americans. • John Birch Society: A pro-American group that hates communism, US participation in the UN, small government, and end to NAFTA, and fears “the New World Order”.
Meet the Special Interests • AFL-CIO: American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Workers. Big union. Support the rights of workers and try to secure union contracts. Lots of $$$. • NEA: National Education Association. Big teacher union. Very politically active. Largest union in the US. • UAW: United Auto Workers. One of the largest lobbies, it cripples the auto industry. • Teamsters: Union of truckers. Lots of money and influence. • Pharmaceutical Lobby: Paid for by companies like Lilly, Merck, Proctor and Gamble, and Pfizer. These companies help push their own agendas in the health industries.
Meet the Special Interests • Anti-defamation League: A Jewish lobby that fights discrimination for Jews. • NOW: National Organization for Women. They speak up for women’s rights, abortion rights, an end to domestic violence, homosexual rights, and an end to discrimination against women. • Christian Coalition: A conservative Christian lobby that is antihomosexual, pro life, and is part of the “religious right” • AARP: American Association of Retired Persons. This is a lobby for older people. They speak up on the rights of the elderly and for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. • Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: Largest gun control lobby in the nation. • Code Pink: Women’s peace movement. Use high profile publicity stunts.
Meet the Special Interests • Gay Rights: While there is no major single group fighting for the rights of LGBT, there are many groups around the country that are advocates for homosexual marriage and an end to discrimination. • Latino: There are no single groups fighting for the rights of Latinos, mostly because of the different Latino groups in the US. Still, they fight against the discrimination of people of Hispanic ethnicity and for relaxed immigration laws. Most famous group is La Raza. • ABA: American Bar Association. This is a lawyers organization that also lobbies for lawyer’s rights. • Hollywood: Many celebrities speak out on social causes and contribute lots of money to campaigns. Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Woody Harrelson are big Democrat supporters while Chuck Norris, Drew Carey, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are Republicans. • Pro Life: There are many prolife advocacy groups, like the National Right to life Council. They are opposed to abortions, euthanasia, and stem cell research. • Planned Parenthood: A pro-choice advocacy group that focuses on birth control, a woman’s right to choose, and reproductive rights.
Meet the Special Interests • Focus on the Family: A Christian advocacy group. They are anti homosexual, prolife, and are for prayer in school. • ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union. They are a lobby that focuses on the individual rights for everyone. Critical of both parties and often takes controversial stances. • National Endowment for the Arts: An independent agency of the US government that gives grants to artists. Sometimes gives money to controversial art projects. • League of Women Voters: a voting advocacy group that has origins in the women’s suffrage movement. They do not sponsor a political party but speak up on voter rights, voter education, and try to get more people registered to vote. • American Legion and VFW: Veteran organizations. They look out for the needs of veterans, their families, and people in the military. • PMRC: Parents Music Resource Center: A advocacy group that looks at the effects of violence and vulgarity in music.
Meet the Special Interests • Italian Americans: Order Sons of Italy in America and the National Italian American Foundation fight discrimination and stereotyping of Italian Americans. • American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee: Organization of Arab Americans who fight prejudice. • Oil Industry: Companies like Halliburton fight for drilling rights and oil dependency. Hold back green energies. • Tobacco Industry: Companies like Altria keep tobacco taxes low, get crop subsides, and keep tobacco on the market. • SCLC: Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This is a civil rights organization that keeps an eye out for “hate groups” in America. • PETA, Humane Society, SPCA: Animal rights advocacy groups.
Meet the Special Interests • MADD and SADD: Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Destructive Decisions. These groups try to create awareness. While MADD focuses on drunk driving, SADD also examines drug use, violence, and unsafe sex. • Susan G Komen for the Cure: Largest breast cancer advocacy group in the US. • Amnesty International: Speaks out against torture and fight for the civil and human rights of people all over the world. • Health lobbies: Groups like the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society create awareness for health issues. • American Red Cross: Supplies relief efforts in the US and abroad for natural disasters. Also raises awareness for blood donations.
Question Time • 5. Which of these groups did you find to be the most interesting and why? • 6. Which of these groups did you find to be the scariest (meaning not like your political beliefs at all) and why? • 7. Which of these groups seem to be more closely aligned to your political beliefs?
Propaganda: How to get people to like you • Propaganda is a type of message that is geared towards influencing a person to do something. • These are biased messages that can be political or commercial in nature. • Propaganda begins with a conclusion and works backwards, often ignoring logic. • Use words and phrases to get people to like you: “family values”, “freedom”, “I’m for our children’s future”, “I am an average Joe too”, “I understand you”, etc. • Make sure you take a picture with your smiling family and a flag waving somewhere. • Stay largely symbolic and be very vague. Never answer any question and avoid details. • Call the opponent/opposing side things like “fascist”, “ultraconservative”, “ultraliberal”, “socialist”, “tax and spend”, etc. • Have an easy to remember catch phrase.
Propaganda: How to get people to like your message • Send out brochures and mailings. • Get on billboards and commercials on the radio and tv. • The more yard signs you have, the better. • Contribute to the editorial section of your local paper. • Make a facebook group. • Present only your side of the issue. Make facts up if you have to or skew them to your favor. • Use celebrity endorsements of people who think like you do to appeal to people. • Grab hold of bandwagon topics/issues/people and run with them.
How to influence a party and an election • Lobbyist and special interest groups can present information to the people to get them behind an issue (gay marriage, health care, etc.) • Lobbies contribute lots of money to political campaigns as long as they do what they want. • Some groups many not want to alienate and attack other politicians/parties just in case the other side takes over. • As of right now, corporate and single issue lobbies are spending more money and are becoming more visible than those for labor, health, and other issues.
Lobbying and lobbyists • Lobbying is when a group or individual representing a group presents and issue to a politician. • Lobbyists apply all sorts of different pressures onto a politician from bribes and promises of favors to threats of action. • Lobbyists help get boycotts and smear campaigns going to get their message across. They can also get rallies and petitions signed. • There are at least 20,000 lobbyists in Congress right now as well as more in each state capital representing their interests. • Because of the “pr” stain of “lobbyists”, many lobbyists call themselves “experts”, or “public representatives”, or etc.
Grass Roots Movements • Many lobbyists refer to themselves as a “Grass Roots Movement” meaning a movement by “the people”. • They claim to represent “folks back home” and the “give the common people a voice”. • This actually helps bring common people to their cause. • Groups like Focus on the Family, the Tea Parties, and the ACLU start off this way. • They focus on issues that matter to most people and play off their fears and emotions to get them riled up.
Regulating the Lobbies • Lobbies are regulated. Bribes and unethical gift giving is a crime. • 1946 Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act—requires lobbies to register with the clerk of the House and secretary of the Senate. Also requires the registration of people who collect or spend money in order to influence legislation for “political purposes”. • Lobby Disclosure Act of 1995: requires that ALL lobbyists be registered. • Every state has their own laws to limit the influence of lobbies. • Politicians must inform what they get and how much they receive from lobby groups.
Question Time • 8. Why do many lobbies and special interest groups hire former congressmen? • 9. Name five things you would use in order to get the public behind your campaign? • 10. What is a grass roots campaign and why are they important?