Political Parties, Interest Groups, PACs, and 527 Groups
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Political Party Characteristics
- Serve as intermediaries between people and the government.
- Made of grassroots members, activist members, and leadership.
- Organized to raise money, present positions on policy, and get their candidatees elected to office.
- Created outside the Constitution.
- Requires parties to select candidates through state-run elections, which reduces the power of political parties.
- Candidates must raise their own money for primaries, campaigning for their party's nomination with little to no support from the party itself.
- Levels the playing field.
- Multiple cadidates for nomination can splinter the party membership.
Form to represent contituencies that feel disenfranchised from both major parties.
- Formed to represent an ideology considered too radical by the mainstream parties.
- Reject prevailing attitudes and policies of the political system.
- Ex. Socialist Party, Libertarian Party.
- Formed to promote one principle.
- Ex. American Independent Party, Green Party
- Run without party affiliation.
- Very difficul to overcome the money and organization of major parties.
- Ex. Eugene McCarthy (anti-Vietnam War), John Anderson (fiscal conservative, social liberal).
Why Third Parties Fail
- American political system designed to support only two major parties.
- Requires huge sums of money and vast organizations.
- Winner-take-all electoral system.
Subdivisions of Political Parties
- The party among the electorate.
- The party in government.
- The party organization.
Functions of Political Parties
- Recruit and nominate candidates.
- Educate and mobilize voters.
- Provide campaign funds and support.
- Organize government activity.
- Probide balance through opposition of two parties.
- Reduce conflict and tension in society.
- Held every four years to nominate a presidential candidate.
- Sponsors polls to keep party members informed of public opinion and manages issue-oriented advertising and propaganda.
Evidence of Party Decline
- Fewer instances of single party control of Congress and Presidency.
- More Americans voting split-ticket.
- Split government encourages party dealignment.
- Modern candidates have taken control of their own election campaigns instead of relying on party support.
- Groups of voters that combine in attempt of a winning vote.
- Ex. (Republicans- pro-lifers, veterans' groups, opponents of affirmative action vs. Democrats- pro-choicers, labor unions, environmentalists)
- Less defense spending.
- Less vouchers/public funds to let students attend private.
- More social welfare.
- More public education.
- More government-run health organizations.
- More tax relief to lower/middle class.
- More defense spending.
- More vouchers for private schools.
- More tax relief to everyone, including wealthy and corps.
- Less money on social welfare.
- Less money on government-run health organizations.
- Less regulation on firearms.
- Occurs when coalitions making up the two parties fall apart.
- Very rare, occuring as a result of some traumatic event.
- Ex. Democrats becoming majority party at every level of government during the Great Depression
- When a new party comes to dominate politics.
- Signals party realignment.
- A result of party members becoming disaffected as a result of some policy position taken by the party.
- These disaffected party members join no political party and vote for the candidate rather than the party.
- Current disalignment of the Democrats.
- Organizations dedicated to a particular political goal or to a set of unified goals, whether religious, racial, professional, etc.
- Do not nominate candidates or address wide range of issues.
- Influence legislators through lobbying for bills.
- Ex. Christian Coalition, NAACP, American Medical Association.
Types of Interest Groups
- Economic Groups
- Government Interest Groups
- Public Interest Groups
How Interest Groups Influence Government
- Direct Lobbying
- Testifying before Congress.
- Political donations.
- Court action.
- Rallying their membership.
Federal Regulaton of Lobbying Act of 1946
Allows the government to monitor lobbying activites requiring lobbyists to register with the government and publicly disclose their salaries, expenses, and the nature of their activities in Washington, D.C.
Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission
- Decided that corporations have a First Amendment right ot expressly support political candidates for Congress and the White House.
- Struck down restrictions that da prevented corporations from spending company money directly on campaign advertising right before an election.
The practice of using personal friendships and inside information to get political advantage.
Limits on Lobbying
- Former legislators must wait one year before lobbying Congress directly. However, they mey lobby the executive branch immediately after leaving office.
- Former executive officials must wait five years after they leave the agency that employed.
Buckley vs. Valeo
- Equated donations with free speech, which legitimized campaign donations.
Federal Election Campaign Act
- Allows corporations, unions, and trade associations to form political action committees as a means of raising campaign funds.
Limits on PACs
- Must raise money from at least 50 contributors.
- Must donate to at least 5 different candidates.
- May not donate more than $5,000 per year to any single candidate or more than $15,000 to a national party per year.
- Corporate, union, and trade PACs must raise money from employees and meembers, not from treasuries.
- Candidates: $2,300
- National Parties: $28,500
- Individual PACs $5,000
- Sum of all contribuions over 2 years: $108,200
- A tax-exempt organization that promotes a political agenda.
- Cannot expressedly advocate for or against a specific candidate.
- Not regulated by Federal Election Commission.
- Not subject to the same contibution limits as PACs.
- Registered as "Political Organizations", but not "Political Committees."
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
Changed soft money rules that make establishing new 527s a more attractive option than traditional PACs.
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