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Unformatted text preview: I nfluence of "Special I nterests" in America What is the best way to minimize the influence of factions in a free society? Since the founding of our nation, Americans have been concerned about the conflict factions can cause in our society and that a particular group or coalition of groups could t ry to dominate our government to promote their own interest at the expense of other smaller groups or individual liberty. You may remember that James Madison in Federalist #10 analyzed the question of how can we have a democratic society where people are the source of power and yet minimize the influence of factions on our leaders? Madison's solution was not to destroy liberty, which permitted factions to exist, but to "control" them by establishing a federal Republic, a representative democracy. The idea was that our elected representatives, unlike ourselves, would be able to listen more objectively to lobbyists and constituents alike. Interest groups would have to compete with one another for the attention of the Congressperson, President, or Mayor. Madison argued that the more factions the better. It would be less likely that a majority could find a common interest and t ry to promote it. Today those factions are known as interest groups or "special interests." In a later lesson, you will also learn that factions are also political parties. There are certainly more interest groups than our founding fathers could have possibly foreseen and today our representatives in government meet everyday with lobbyists representing businessmen, farmers, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, paralegals, laborers, senior citizens, and gun owners to name just a few. Yet not one interest group dominates our federal government. There are days when Congress passes laws that favor business over labor and yet on other days Congress passes laws that provide greater protections for laborers. For example, big business for all its corporate PAC contributions or highly paid lobbyists does not always win the day. I am not saying that money and a good team of lobbyists don't help, of course they do. However, political contributions "buy access" - a lobbyist will get to meet and talk with a Congressman but it doesn't guarantee that the representative will vote for a bill that supports the interest group's position. There are many other influences on a member of Congress' vote. 1 You may remember Enron Corporation, the energy giant, made campaign contributions to both Republican and Democratic parties/candidates during the 1990's and turn of this century, and one of its Corporate officers made a phone call to the Commerce Department to get the government to bail the company out of bankruptcy. The Bush Administration did not help the company out of financial difficulties, but began a fraud investigation. So money doesn't always buy influence....
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- Spring '10
- President of the United States, U.S. Congress, terest groups