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The Effects Of Interest Groups On Politics

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Autor:   •  October 27, 2010  •  1,483 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,035 Views

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Influence of interest groups on the American legislature

We elect politicians on the basis on the issues by which they stand, and these issues are either held up or weakened by the numerous interest groups that exist today. Interest groups target both major and minor issues, using all of their resources to sponsor or overpower the groups' concern. Interest groups are composed of a limited range of the body of voters who have a great stake in the issues their group support. They make evident the issues their group supports. Their resources are used in an attempt to make their issue public policy. Interest groups are persistent; they do not give up until they succeed. They lobby congress, take legal action, and attempt to influence election results in order to benefit their cause. "The AARP monitors local and national legislation of interest to its members."1 The AARP, an example of a non-PAC interest group, focus their efforts to electioneering and media. They influence the elections through their voter guides, election forums and the large senior voting population. Through television, radio, and periodicals the AARP is able to achieve many of their goals to aid retired persons.

In 1958, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired educator, founded an organization dedicated to helping all persons over the age of 50.2 The organization, called the American Association for Retired Persons, or AARP, has grown over the years and reports to have 30 million and four thousand chapters nationwide.2 The AARP is unlike any other interest groups because it is a non-profit organization. Similarly to other interest groups, the AARP is a policy specialist that has a narrow view. Their three main policy goals are economic security for the elderly, affordable comprehensive health care for all, and improvements in the attitudes about the elderly in the workplace.4 Research on elderly needs and the economy, as well as a large volunteer network help the AARP influence thousands of potential members every year.5 The AARP is the oldest and largest interest group focused completely on senior citizens, using its numbers and resources to persuade policy makers for the benefit of the members of the organization.

The principle thrust of the AARP is to effectuate positive legislative action on the part of congress. The AARP's size and clout make it the key interest groups advocating old-age interests. They concentrate their efforts in five major fields of policy concerns, medicare, social security, tax reform, long term care, and campaign finance reform.7 The group has proposed and lobbied for an initiative that "declares war" on Medicare fraud.8 The program relies on training seniors across the country to report and identify instances of fraud.9 The AARP has made federal help in buying coverage a demand in the Medicare debate. They, along with other old-age interests, however, have had to shift their role to a defensive one.11 The defeat of President Clinton's health care reform package, which the AARP supported, dealt them a measurable political blow.12 The republican congressional take over of 1994 led to a scaling back of the federal government's role, including programs designed to benefit seniors. The AARP believes big government to be essential to the welfare of seniors. This view comes in direct conflict with the Republican view stated in the "Contract With America", that individuals and businesses can make more effective use of funds than the governmental bureaucracy.13 An understanding of this fundamental philosophical distinction provides one with the perspective to understand the AARP's opposition to the privatization of programs important to seniors. These programs include social security, which the AARP describes as its "number one issue", and Medicare.14 It also explains their fervent opposition to reductions in the rate of growth of the aforementioned programs. The AARP has made more conservative choices, defending the status quo rather than advocating new social causes. It appears the AARP is now more concerned with maintaining organizational fidelity than pursuing advocacy. The organization is further restricted in its advocacy by the broad diversity of viewpoints it represents.

One of the primary ways the AARP influences policy is through their influence on voters. They do this in the form of election forums and the distribution of voter guides. The AARP continuously holds election forums to discuss and inform voters on candidate's stances on the issues that affect their members. They utilize these election forums to inform their members and enable them to make informed decisions at the polls. A forum is not a debate and does not create any dissention between members but increases the members loyalty through unified ideas. Another tool used by the AARP to inform its members and potential supporters is the distribution of voter guides and pro-AARP propaganda. Voter guides allow them to give a detailed account of each politician's issues and how they affect the seniors.16 The information contained in voter guides enable members to fully understand where each candidate is coming from and what he/she plans to accomplish while in office. Through mass distribution of voter guides, the AARP is able to


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