Another area of social policy where interest groups have acted to form government policy is in the area of abortion rights. (Stein, 2001) In the early 1990s, anti-abortion interest groups began running advertisements on television that included graphic pictures of late-term abortions. (Stein, 2001) After the FCC invoked decency laws to severely curtail the times and natures of advertisement on the issue, interest groups pursued legal action to recapture those rights, and obtained renewed access to media through the support of candidate for office that opposed abortion.
(Stein, 2001) The financial support of candidates is another manner by which interest groups change social policy. The things that are valued most by officials in office and seeking office are votes. (Geiger, 2005) The means by which votes are obtained is by disseminating the candidate’s platform, message and ideals to the public at large, as well as countering negative stories promulgated by opponents, and spreading “attacks” against their own opponents. In order to accomplish any of these tasks, money is required.
(Geiger, 2005) Advertising on television and radio, mailers, posters, stickers and buttons are all costly elements of election that are vital to the success of candidates. Interest groups offer financial assistance to those candidates that support their views. (Geiger, 2005) While direct contributions are illegal over certain amounts, interest groups utilize well-worn loopholes in order to funnel money into certain campaigns. (Geiger, 2005) One such method is the use of “issue ads”.
(Geiger, 2005) These are advertisements that do not name candidates or parties, but address specific issues that clearly point to the advantages of one candidate over another. (Geiger, 2005) Many of these advertisements are either critical or complementary to the incumbent government policies, inferring preference for one or the other candidate. (Geiger, 2005) After the campaign finance reforms of the late 1990s, political action groups, the normal conduit of special interest contributions to candidates were replaced by 527 organizations.
(Geiger, 2005) These organizations provide a legal loophole by which “soft money” can be funneled into campaigns. (Geiger, 2005) In 2004, 400 million dollars in soft money found its way into federal elections, most of it from individuals and organizations with social policy agendas. (Geiger, 2005) “Soft money” refers to money given to the political parties for “party-building activities”. Since the overweening goal of all political parties is the election of individuals who support their platform, most of this “soft money” goes directly into election efforts for the parties’ candidates(Geiger, 2005).
527 groups are named after the part of the Federal tax code that defines them and exempts them from taxation as non-profit organizations. (Geiger, 2005) In order to qualify for this status, the 527 group must be “organized for the express purpose of engaging in partisan political activity. ” (Geiger, 2005) As such, any contributions made to these organizations, which are nominally independent of the political parties, candidates or elections, are under the heading of “soft money.
” (Geiger, 2005) The US Supreme Court in Federal Election Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL), defended the basic 527 loophole as a function of First Amendment free speech protection. (Geiger, 2005) Later, the FEC itself declined to close the 527 loophole in a timely manner to avoid its use in the 2004 election. (Geiger, 2005) The problem with legislation to close 527 loopholes is that it is counter to the fundamental interest of the policy makers, who need the money provided to be reelected. (Geiger, 2005)