Choices and Changes

Choices and Changes: Interest Groups in the Electoral Process

Michael M. Franz
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Choices and Changes
    Book Description:

    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 behavior 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 1991-2002, and analyzes political action committee (PAC) contributions to candidates and parties from 1983-2002. 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-675-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 The Puzzle of Interest Group Electioneering
    (pp. 1-14)

    October 11, 2000, was typical of most days in the final frantic weeks before the November elections. TheNew York Timesreported 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.”¹ TheAtlanta Journal-Constitutionreported on that day that Bush was campaigning in Tennessee and winning there in the latest poll and that Gore’s Southern...

  5. 2 Election Law and Electoral Politics Between FECA and BCRA
    (pp. 15-50)

    In April 1989, speaking on the floor of the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Nevada) implored his colleagues to take action and pass campaign finance reform:

    Mr. President, [in] the 1988 Senate race in the State of Nevada … there was a mass advertising campaign directed against the present Senator Richard Bryan, who was then the Governor. This money that was spent, more than one-half million dollars, was spent by foreign auto dealers. Now, you would think they would be spending their money to talk about stands that Governor Bryan had taken relative to commerce or trade. But, no; the foreign auto...

  6. 3 A Theory of Emergent and Changing Interest Group Tactics
    (pp. 51-74)

    Under what conditions do interest groups adopt or change election strategies? I argue that to understand how interest groups engage elections and to understand how this process changes over time, we must comprehend how shifting political and legal contexts (described in Chapter 2) create both opportunities and impediments for certain forms of electoral participation. As Petracca (1992, p. 23) argues, “When we ask why the interest group system has changed, we are really asking what aspects of American politics changed to transform the interest group system.”

    In this chapter, I review the literature on interest group electioneering, taking care to...

  7. 4 Putting PACs in (Political) Context(s)
    (pp. 75-94)

    Speaking on the floor of the Senate on May 8, 1990, Democratic Senator David Boren (from Oklahoma) said,

    We have a cancer that is eating away at the heart of the political process. That cancer is composed of two main elements: Too much money being pumped into the election process, and too much of it coming from special interest groups. Mr. President, we have a serious national problem. We do not need to nibble away at it. We do not need to try to piecemeal it…. We need a comprehensive plan that will in essence do away with the influence...

  8. 5 Understanding Soft Money
    (pp. 95-117)

    On May 24, 2000 the Democratic Party held a fund-raiser at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., dubbed by organizer Terry McAuliffe as a “down-home blue jeans and barbecue bash.” DNC National Chairman Joe Andrew kicked off the event by declaring, “We don’t care about the size of your wallet, just the size of your heart,” and DNC General Chairman Ed Rendell proclaimed, “When we win this election in November, we are committed to getting rid of soft money. And four years from now, when we have a similar event—the top ticket is going to cost $100, and we’re...

  9. 6 Following 527s and Watching Issue Advocacy
    (pp. 118-144)

    In Chapter 4, I demonstrated that partisan PACs altered their hard money contribution strategies in the late 1990s, becoming more partisan in years when the control of Congress hung in the balance. In Chapter 5, I broadened the analysis to soft money contributions. Both empirical analyses focused on how interest groups contribute funds to other political actors. In this chapter, I switch the analysis to examine how interest groups raise and spend money independently of the candidates or parties they are trying to help.

    I focus the chapter on interest group advertisements in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 federal elections...

  10. 7 Tracking the Regulatory Context
    (pp. 145-171)

    In this chapter, I shift from a focus on how the ideological and partisan context structures interest group electoral goals (which in turn drive tactical choices) to a discussion of how the regulatory context structures the capacity to act in campaigns—which (also) affects tactical choices. At the outset, it makes sense to assume that political actors are concerned about whether innovative or untested tactics have criminal, civil, or political penalties to their employment. After all, “Federal campaign law is a freakish mess.”¹

    Indeed, between 1977 and 2003, more than 1,200 candidates, parties, and interest groups sought official legal counsel...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 172-188)

    Dring a third season episode of NBC’sThe West Wing(“Gone Quiet,” which originally aired on November 14, 2001), staffers of fictional president Josiah Bartlett convened to plan strategy for Bartlett’s upcoming re-election campaign. When the conversation turned to campaign advertising, Toby (the president’s communications director), Sam (Bartlett’s speech writer), Bruno (the campaign manager), and Connie (Bruno’s assistant) had the following exchange¹:

    Toby: Look, we can’t spend soft money on a primary ad anyway, so …

    Sam: No, he’s passing the magic words test.

    Toby: What magic words test?

    Sam: The US Supreme Court,Buckley v. Valeo.The court created...

  12. Appendix: PAC Ideology Measure
    (pp. 189-192)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 193-206)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-216)
  15. Index
    (pp. 217-226)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-229)