The chapter examines the role of interest groups and money in the American political system. Although the activity of interest groups is generally seen as essential to the functioning of a democratic system and the framers of the Constitution such as James Madison thought that interests could be made to balance each other, the inequalities which characterise interest groups in terms of money and access can also pose a threat to democracy. The chapter considers unequal representation from two channels of influence: contributions to election campaigns and lobbying. Efforts to control the role of money in politics have been profoundly weakened by a series of Supreme Court rulings which equated the freedom to spend money in campaigns to freedom of speech and struck down measures designed to regulate federal campaign expenditures. As a result, interest groups have come to play an ever more influential role in campaigns and Super PACs (a type of organization devoted to independent expenditure with no limits on the size of contributions) have grown in importance. Equally, the lobbying industry has grown substantially, begging serious questions around who has access to power and what impact unequal representation might have on government decisions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)