A part of the “darker side” of Washington is considered by the American public as interest groups. Even James Madison described them in the federalist papers he wrote in 1787 as “factions” that could be dangerous. The modern day hasn’t changed much. People today largely agree with Madison in how they view interest groups. What interest groups do, how they are supported, and what their stances are an interesting mix of controversy, clash, and representation. Interest groups are there to represent the people, usually a portion of the people.
This representation stems from either a view point or stance for a plethora of issues. There are hundreds of different interest groups that represent view points from big business. Interest groups represent their portion of the public by lobbying congress. Interest groups use lobbying as a way to influence congress. This process includes getting lobbyists or people who exemplify interest groups before the government. Usually lobbyists do this by educating the government about issues that their members are interested in. When the laws pass the lobbyists then educate their constituents on the issues that are passed.
Although many members of the public believe that lobbyists bribe congressmen for votes, they are more involved in the information aspect of the policy making process. The passing of information to the law makers is the most important and time consuming part of the job. Lobbyists want the correct information given to lawmakers to make the important decisions. The majority of the time they try to persuade lawmakers that their data is more accurate than their opponent’s data. The methods lobbyists use to persuade law makers for decisions vary.
The first method that lobbyists use to persuade law makers is called direct lobbying. This method utilizes direct contact with the law maker to influence their decision; usually through a meeting with a congressmen or one of the congressmen’s assistants. The lobbyist does not directly day that the congressman should vote for the bill. They instead talk about how the public would benefit because of the passage of the bill. After meeting with the congressmen the lobbyists stay in contact with the congressmen. Another direct form of lobbying is when the lobbyists testify in a congressional hearing.
This allows the lobbyists to express their facts to the congressmen so they are able to make better informed decision and puts their views on the record. The final direct tactic is using legal litigation to have the courts rule in favor of their views. These direct forms are able to get a lot done with direct contact with the law makers, but there are some tactics that don’t use direct contact. Grassroots lobbying does not use direct contact with congressmen to get their message across. They instead use members of the interest group to write letter, protest, email, call, or fax their representative.
The most common tactic is letter witting. Law makers are very sensitive to the mail that they receive so this technique can be quite effective. What this does is put pressure on the lawmakers to make decisions that favor the writers of the letters. This form of lobbying differs form of lobbying still has contact with congressmen but some tactics don’t. A lobbying tactic that doesn’t involve direct contact with the law maker is an information campaign. This tactic has the lobbyist group bring the issue to the public’s attention. The main goal of this tactic is to gain the support of the public.
The methods that are used in this form of lobbying are handing out informational packets, television and radio advertisement, and starting up websites. These tactics are all aimed at gaining the public’s attention and their support. This tactic is aimed at the public which can also be done with multiple organizational groups. The final tactic that lobbyists use is that lobbyists try to band different organizational groups together to form a coalition. This allows for the groups to organize for certain issues more effectively. Although the groups usually rally around one issue so the relationship between groups is generally informal at best.
Another benefit of being in a coalition is that it shows more support for the issue by more people when there is a coalition of organizations over just one group. Coalitions can build support for many goals, such as tax policies, that are on the agenda for today for lobbyists such as Americans for tax reform. Americans for Tax Reform is an interest group that deals with addressing tax issues. This interest group primarily lobbies for a flat tax. They don’t care if it is a flat sales tax or a flat income tax but they want a flat tax.
This interest group is most similar to individualistic conservatives’ ideology. The major parallel this group has to the individual conservatives group is that they both believe in flat taxation. The biggest policy that Americans for Tax Reform want the tax code to be broken down to limit government power over certain individuals and to make the system equal for all. This interest group has been funded by most notably Microsoft and Time Warner. They are also funded by the general public in the form of anonymous donations, which is similar to another interest group called Americans for Fair Taxation.
The next interest group is Americans for Fair Taxation. This interest group calls for a national sales tax. They describe this national sales tax as being more effective than the current 3 million word tax code currently implemented by the federal government. Also with abolishing the 3 million word code there wouldn’t be a need of such a large IRS. This abolishment of the IRS is most similar to individualistic conservatives. Individualistic conservatives believe in a flat tax, no matter if it’s an income or sales tax.
Following the implementation of a flat tax the IRS wouldn’t be required to be as large and thus would shrink is size. This shrinkage of a government program would be seen by individualistic conservatives as another perk to the flat tax. This flat tax interest group is funded by private donations and prides itself on being a grassroots organization. Where the group actually gets its donations are not directly stated but implied to be from ordinary citizens. This trend is similar to another interest group that prides itself in not being funded by any big businesses.
National Taxpayer Unions has set itself on being a reputable company that represents the average American, not the average big business; for this reason National Taxpayers union gets most of its donations from private citizens. This organization’s average donation is $26, is not from labor unions, not from government. The interesting part about the lack of funding from government and labor unions is that the National Taxpayer Union refuses any support from both organizations. The types of policies that this group is encouraging the government to enact are most closely related the policies individualistic conservatives believe in.
The reason for this is that both the National Taxpayers Union and individualistic conservatives want a flat tax policy. The interest group at hand also wants to enact limits on government spending, taxing, and debt; all policies that individualistic conservatives favor. Individualistic conservatives favor Taxpayer’s Revolution when supporting an interest group. The reason why individualistic conservatives interest group calls for a flat national sales tax. They believe that this national sales tax will completely rid the government of the IRS and stop loopholes that many use to get around paying their taxes.
The major benefit they continually harp is how the IRS will be abolished with the result of a flat tax. The validity of this statement can be called into question because there will be those who will try to avoid taxation no matter what way it is. So a complete abolishment of the IRS isn’t necessarily going to happen. The government spending the IRS brings is something individualistic conservatives like. Individualistic conservatives agree with the flat tax policies that these interest groups favors as well. There are some interest groups that agree with tax policies that don’t have flat taxation.
The interest group Citizens for Tax Justice does not believe in flat tax policies. This interest groups calls for a decrease in taxes for the middle and lower class; conversely they call for the wealthy to “pay their fair share”. This implied increase of taxation on the wealthy is most closely similar to liberation theorists. The reason they reflect liberation theorists the most is how the wealthy are paying more taxes while those who are less fortunate to pay less. This interest group does not get much support from the wealthy but instead get most of its support from labor unions and private citizens.
This interest group is like all the others in that it tries to get an issue represented and heard by the congress and the public. Interest groups get a bad rap for the way the public perceives they try to get their agendas passed. Many think that interest groups emphatically pay off congressmen as one of their major ways of influencing opinion. Although this may be true the interest groups mostly give relevant information to the law maker to make a more informed decision. This information sheds some light on the “darker side” of Washington.