What role should so-called special interests play in elections? During a recent NPR roundtable, I argued that special interests are vital to ensuring the health of our democracy.
Why? "Special interests" are really just you and me. Groups like the NRA, Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood-love them or hate them-are made up of ordinary people who want their voices heard on issues that matter to them. We freely join these organizations to combine our voices. "Special interests" arguably give the individual a larger voice-not a lesser one-by amplifying a point of view that otherwise might not be heard.
"Limiting the influence" of special interests is really a euphemism for eliminating our ability to get together and state our peace.
Arizona's Clean Elections initiative, which limited the amount of money an individual or group can contribute to a participating candidate, was heavily funded by out-of-state special interests, like the Peace Development Fund of Massachusetts and the Coalition to Defend America's Working Families. Clean Elections proponents now support silencing the very "special interests" that gave birth to their cause. I guess what's good for the goose, is, well, just good for the goose.
At the end of the day, our Republic benefits from a healthy debate where all voices are welcome. As efforts to reform campaign finance evolve, protection for free speech and association should be restored.
-KJZZ-NPR: Clean Elections on Here and Now
-Goldwater Institute: "Is Cleanliness Political Godliness? Arizona's Clean Elections Law after Its First Year"
-James Madison, The Federalist No. 10
-First Amendment Center: "Court to revisit campaign finance debate"