Special Interest Groups

When the words special interest is mentioned within the confines of a political debate, the tone is usually very negative. The reason for this is that special interests have long since gained a reputation as self serving creatures that seek political influence and benefits at the detriment of the public at large. There needs to be a very obvious question posed in light of this sentiment: is such a perception accurate? To a certain degree, this is true and to another degree it is not.

There are cases where special interests groups have placed their own needs above the population at large and then there have been those special interest groups that have contributed too much that were beneficial to the public at large. In that regard, the merits and demerits of special interests must be analyzed on an individual basis and not with sweeping generalities. Before one comes to any conclusion on the subject, however, it is highly advisable to understand the underlying pragmatism that bounds politicians to special interest groups.

When it comes to the subject of the electorate and the public at large, there needs to be a clear understanding that it is next to impossible for congress to provide a system of government policy that would appeal to everyone. In short, there are winners and there are losers in elections. The representative system of government that exists in the United States provides a system where the electorate sends a politician into office in order to represent the electorate wants and needs.

While this does not mean that it is right for en elected official to disregard the concerns of those constituents who voted for the opposition candidate, however, if those needs and concerns are not consistent with the policies of the elected official’s political party, then the losing side of the constituents will simply be underrepresented. Unfortunately, politics is not about fairness. Within the constituency base, there will be special interest groups that invest a great deal of finances into the political spectrum in order to gain influence in Washington.

This brings a great deal of controversy with it because it is not uncommon that the needs of special interest groups may not be popular with the electorate at large and it is not uncommon for the public to feel disenfranchised when it sees that special interest groups are being overrepresented while the concerns of the average citizen is ignored. What needs to be clearly understood is the fact that no politician can get elected without having a large enough budget to be able to afford the incredible media costs necessary for advertising when running for office.

Furthermore, a politician must rely upon voter turnout to get elected. With limited funds and a limited number of voters, it becomes impossible for any politician to find him or herself elected to office. A special interest group may bring with it significant political contributions and, in addition, a powerful special interest group may have the influence to direct a number of voters to the voting booths. Because of this, special interest groups will garner significant attention from elected officials to a greater degree than an unorganized collective of singular voters in a district.