money for lawyers, right? The special interest issue in 2002
By Roger F. Gay
posted July 8, 2002
This is only a "mid-term" election year when there is no presidential
race. There are US and state representatives and senators, governors,
mayors, and dog-catchers whose terms are at an end but not as much big-money
campaigning. For every American however, it is still a season for deciding
the balance of power between one group of lawyers and the other.
Two-thousand was a presidential election year. The term "special interest"
seemed more popular then. In January, participants in PBS
NewsHour discussed the way special interest advertising might
interfere with political party message management. In the February issue
Review Yeshiva University professor John McGinnis commended Senator
John McCain for recognizing that the government serves special interests
instead of the public good while criticizing the Senator because he "consistently
takes stands that would strengthen rather than dissolve the special-interest
state." In July, Mike Allen at the Washington
Post reported that spending on special interest advertising with
messages similar to those of candidates "might match or exceed that of
the candidates in hotly contested House and Senate races."
In 1992, Washington voters passed a spending-limits law that barred a
political party's unregulated campaign funds from being spent to promote
individual candidates. In August of 2000 the editors of the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer were lamenting its downfall to the state Supreme
Court's defense of free speech. "Voters across the nation have made clear
their profound disgust with money's influence in politics," they wrote.
"The court's decision comports with the Constitution, but runs counter
to that public sentiment." How many of you could see that coming? The
Constitution has been around for a while. So has pandering to special
The "special interest" issue is a mainstay of political rhetoric almost
always tied to money. But with the problems of Arthur Anderson, Enron,
Global Crossing, WorldCom, Xerox, Kmart, ImClone, Tyco, Adelphia Communications,
Merrill Lynch, ... to name a few; politicians may find it difficult to
cope. It isn't just election year rhapsody anymore. Democrats tried to
blame Republicans. Republicans hinted at the involvement of Democrats.
If this keeps up someone might begin to suspect that politicians pander.
That may make this just the right year for people who are not running
for office, shilling for a political party, or selling advertising to
discuss the "special interest" problem.
Maybe first we need to rethink the phrase "pandering to special interests."
It seems the kind of phrase-turning that leads to describing a sociopath
as someone who skirmishes to satisfy difficult to meet needs. What we
are really concerned about is lying, cheating, stealing, pork-barreling,
patronage, bribery, corruption, extortion, and deception, right? But if
this is done under the color of laws written by people who are doing it
we call it "pandering." Some debate on pandering seems to suggest the
fault of victims for offering a weakness to exploit. At other times it
seems to mean to perform a special service – perhaps for people
with difficult to meet needs.
Our well developed political stereotypes are of one group that favors
pandering to wealthy corporations and another to "social groups." Fighting
for the middle these days seems to involve damning the other party's stereotypical
pandering and calling for alternative pandering as a necessary step toward
moderation. Should we assume that no one in the real world needs help?
Of course not. Corporations are apparently so complicated that the largest
and most successful accounting corporations have difficulty meeting the
needs of their clients. It goes without question that "social groups"
almost always have needs that are difficult to meet.
From Women's Enews: Both
Parties Say Women's Wallets Ripe for Tapping. "Party operations have
for too long been viewed as mostly a man's arena," said Illinois Democrat
Jan Schakowsky. "We want women to be actually investing in candidates
and in the party. When you make any kind of investment, you definitely
feel more connected. I think there's a whole untapped constituency out
there that is ready and waiting to be engaged."
Women used to get engaged to men, marry and settle down to wrestle with
the concept of mutual support. Today's progressive politicians apparently
see it differently. Women's issues roared into the middle-class through
welfare reform during the past quarter century. Now family support is
withheld from the old man's paycheck and sent to the government for reallocation.
Exactly who gets what is decided by politicians. This is exactly the moment
for women to "feel more connected" to politics and to "invest." NOW brags
that their PACs collect money through 550 local chapters. It is the largest
feminist campaign contribution machine in the country. The aim is to gain
influence in every level of government; from presidents to state court
This in turn is creating a "whole untapped constituency" of men who are
beginning to "feel more connected" too. The more pandering women get,
the more difficult it is for men to meet their needs; like food, clothing,
and shelter. Men should learn to "invest" in candidates and political
parties. If it pays off someone in the government's Fatherhood Initiative
might suggest forgiving a small portion of their politically created debt.
This all leaves me wondering if we might be displaying too much tolerance
for phrasing diversity. Pandering doesn't sound nearly as illegal as bribery
Two years from now during the next presidential election campaigns you
will have the opportunity to hear from hundreds of political investment
counselors spilling out lists of issue titles in a tone pretending to
be substantive. It may take quite a few dollars just to get your issue
on a list. The good news for the downtrodden masses is that the United
States is an equal opportunity nation. The money is just as green no matter
who it comes from. Politics today is about investing in a way that continually
increases the difficulties we face in meeting our needs stubbornly hoping
that it might make things better. It is faith in achieving balance in
the abuse of political power. And if nothing else it's more money for
the lawyers, right?
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