Special Interests, or Corrupt Politicians?

It has become common fare for politicians, on both sides of the aisle, to rail against the evil “special interests” that run Washington. Obama has even made it a major component of his advertising that he doesn’t take money from Washington special interests. For instance, the Washington Post reports on one campaign ad for Obama by quoting

The Ad: Narrator: Who has what it takes to really bring change? To finally take on the special interests — not take their money. Who made the right judgment about opposing the war and had the courage and character to speak honestly about it. And who in times of challenge will unite us — not use fear and calculation to divide us.

Special interests are evil. They are to be reviled. They are to be stopped. And politicians certainly shouldn’t take their money. I would suspect if asked, politicians would say they certainly would not welcome endorsements from special interests. But what, exactly, are special interests?

According to one source from Princeton, special interests are “an individual or group who are concerned with some particular part of the economy and who try to influence legislators or bureaucrats to act in their favor.” Webster’s similarly defines it as “a person or group seeking to influence legislative or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.”

With so many politicians pushing for the removal of special interests, we are left asking “Who are special interests?”

Obviously “Big Oil” qualifies. So does the “Military Industrial Complex.” Evil, well orchestrated special interests. But how about another list? The next list is a group of “special interests” fitting the definitions above. They all have a specific agenda they are putting forward, seeking to influence political outcomes. Yet, the favor of this collection seems to be curried by the politicans (some more than others depending on your political leanings.)

Obviously the list could go on and on. The reality is the “special interests” that Obama, and Clinton(s) speak about are those that oppose their own views. Those special interest groups must be stopped. Must be silenced. Must be controlled.

Apparently the view is that “The groups with which I agree cannot possibly be “special interest” groups. Special Interest groups are evil.” Yes, I am putting words in people’s mouths, but ask yourself this: if legislation was passed to remove ALL influence of any group from the halls of national, state, and local legislators, would you feel represented?

So a couple questions for you then:

  1. Should “special interests” be stopped?
  2. Should “select” special interests (SI’s) be stopped?
  3. If select SI’s, how do we determine which ones are “good” and which are “evil”?
  4. Can we do #3 without making it a “left/right” political battle?

Finally, I leave you with this thought. “Special Interests” are the cause of the failure of the system. Corrupt politicians who accept bribes, and promises and campaign money are the problem. Sure we can try to stop organizations from officially giving money. But as we have seen with the various analyses of the Obama and Clinton donators the money will still come in from individuals all supporting a candidate with views they support. In fact, Clinton(s) recently acknowledged (as reported by CBS) the fine line between these

“There has been a lot of back and forth about oil companies in this campaign, and I’ve got to admit that when I first saw that ad that my opponent ran saying that he didn’t take money from oil companies, I thought nobody takes money from oil companies. It’s been illegal for a hundred years,” Clinton said, pointing out that federal candidates aren’t allowed to take corporate donations.

“Well the fact is he didn’t take money from oil companies, but you can, and we do, take money from people who work for oil companies, they’re Americans, they can contribute, so we both do that,” Clinton admitted.

Let’s all remember that special interests are really simply communities of people with specific interests. Odds are quite good that, whether we realize it or not, we either are members of, or at least support the goals of, a few special interest groups ourselves.

Don’t give in to the rhetoric. Don’t believe the spin.


One thought on “Special Interests, or Corrupt Politicians?

  1. Steve- exactly so! The implications of your description of the role and definition of “Special Interests” is quite broad- and strikes at the very heart of the relationship between the citizen and the state.

    Our country was founded on a very simple idea that was 180 degrees out from the Citizen-State relationship up to that time. Pre-Revolution, the “social contract” was that the sovereign “owned” all the rights, and granted rights to his subjects. Post-Revolution, at least in “The Colonies,” that role was reversed. Our coutnry was founded on the belief that all rights belonged to the people; who guarded them jealously; only reluctantly ceding some of their rights to the state (sovereign) in order to benefit the common weal.

    What does this have to do with “Special Interests?”

    Well, back when The People were sovereign, we didn’t have “Special Interests” because the power and role of The State was quite limited.

    Ahem. (interject human nature, greed, and Abraham Lincoln . . . toss in a Roosevelt or two for good measure.)

    We are now back to begging the Crown for permission to use our rights. The power structure has been reversed; we seek advantage from each other not through the magic of free markets but through the sword.

    You can *always* get 51% of the people to agree to screw over the other 49% . . .

    . . . democracy is now 3 wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner!

    the other steve

    p.s. Extra Credit for bringing up the “West Texas Polygamy Cult Raid” in a meaningful way!

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