The latest tactic progressives are attempting is to scare voters into thinking that behind every conservative, Tea Party or Republican candidate or group are secret, foreign corporations and individuals propping them up with funding. The implication is that these ‘special’ interests represent a threat to our system of democracy.
Part of the issue stems from a recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. FEC, in which the majority of the justices ruled that corporations have free speech rights in respect to their ability to fund political opinion. Many Democrats and progressives, including Obama, have at many times railed against the decision.
One group under attack is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Recently, there has been an effort to insinuate that the Chamber is backed by foreign special interests, despite little evidence to prove it. The Chamber’s head of government affairs has even asserted that the push to disclose donor information may be an attempt by the Obama administration to intimidate those who fund the organization. Other conservative-leaning groups, like Americans for Prosperity, have also come under fire from Obama and other Democrats desperately hoping to find a way to minimize the severity of their predicted election losses next month.
Obama has asserted thoughts similar to the following many times over the last few weeks:
Because of the Supreme Court law, they don’t have to disclose who is behind it. It could be the oil companies. It could be the insurance industry. It could be Wall Street. You don’t know. Their lips are sealed. The floodgates are open, though. And almost every one of these independent organizations is run by Republican operatives. … Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won’t tell you where the money for their ads come from. … This is a threat to our democracy. The American people deserve to know who’s trying to sway their elections. And if we just stand by and allow the special interests to silence anybody who’s got the guts to stand up to them, our country is going to be a very different place.
But what exactly is a ‘special’ interest? Progressives call businesses ‘special’ interests, while conservatives call groups like labor unions ‘special’ interests. These devious ‘special’ interests are placed in stark contrast to the supposed good ‘public’ interest. But cannot all interests be considered ‘special’ in that not everyone holds them in common? In almost all political decisions, there are both individuals whose interests would benefit and those individuals whose interests would not. That’s one of the problems with the tendency in wanting to make more and more decisions political.
These special interests are not solely to blame for this corruption. The nefarious influence groups have on public policy is largely the fault of the increased size of government itself. If today’s federal government was constrained to the powers the framers of the Constitution intended, there wouldn’t be much room for corruption and influence-peddling, because no one could gain favors from the government. But today government is involved in all sorts of nefarious activities that allow it to essentially pick winners and losers. Vast subsidies, bailouts and regulations enable this.
A simple answer to ending this so-called ‘special’ interest influence in politics: Decrease the number of issues decided politically. Decreasing the power and size of government will lessen the influence of these groups by removing more issues from the sphere of political influence.
But politicians are reluctant to do so because it would decrease their power and influence. Perhaps the most significant and devious special interest of all is the interest politicians have in getting re-elected. They often pursue their perpetual incumbency through scare tactics like blaming the other side with being a ‘special’ interest. Maybe we would all be better off if politicians didn’t display so much interest in gaining power.Published in