Interest groups engage in electioneering when they become involved in the electoral process. During actual electoral cycles many interest groups channel resources usually committed to efforts to influence government policy to activities immediately intended to promote particular candidates and causes. The differences between electioneering and regular interest group activities may be only a matter of degree. For example, Californians will be voting soon on a new tobacco tax that has predictably spawned a television campaign to defeat the initiative paid for by tobacco interests and anti-tax groups.
Both groups would be involved in the political process even without an actual campaign to focus their efforts. Elections do provide opportunities to participate in very election-based activities that are unlike the industry norms of lobbying and general fund-raising. It might be argued that what electioneering activities a particular group may become involved can provide valuable insight as to the actual and concrete interests of the group. In the case of the California tobacco tax it is unlikely that the tobacco interests currently funding anti-tax commercials will spend any money to support the other side (it is not uncommon for interest groups to spread their money around as a form of hedging their bets). What do you think? Is electioneering actually a different form of interest group behavior or is it, as suggested above, simply a shift in emphasis during election cycles?
- Thanks SuperPACs! Negative Political Ads Up 70 Percent (wnyc.org)
- Arizona Voters Can Wear Their Politics On Their Sleeves (Or Anywhere Else) (reason.com)