Democracy in Action P2000 --
        Interest Groups: Many Voices

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Election-year debate is not limited to the campaigns and the media. Organized interests and well-organized individuals endeavor to shape the dialogue at every stage of the process. Some groups mount campaigns comparable to those of the candidates themselves in order to see that their points of view are represented. 

For example, leading up to the 1996 contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, AARP/VOTE, the nonprofit, nonpartisan voter education program of the American Association of Retired Persons, had offices in Iowa and New Hampshire. Later in the campaign AARP was a co-sponsor of the Vice Presidential debate in St. Petersburg; after the debate one of its officials was actually in the spin area spinning the media alongside the campaign operatives. 

To take another example from late 1995/early 1996, the liberal group People for the American Way mounted an "Expose the Right" campaign, with storefront offices in Iowa and New Hampshire. From these bases the group's supporters distributed literature and took their bright orange signs out to demonstrate when Republican candidates came stumping. During the Republican National Convention in San Diego, PFAW put out a daily newsletter; at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, PFAW had a hospitality suite. 

There are myriad ways in which a group can influence the campaign. In 1996 the Christian Coalition put out voter guides in Iowa and New Hampshire contrasting the positions of the Republican hopefuls, it sent a sizable number of delegates to the Republican National Convention, its annual Road to Victory conferences in 1995 and 1996 provided a venue to address social conservative activists, and, in the closing weeks of the fall campaign, it distributed millions of voter guides. 

Likewise, organized labor wields a strong influence in the Democratic party.  Union members provide the manpower for everything from turning out large crowds at rallies to working phone banks.  In 1996 the AFL-CIO put together a multi-faceted campaign that sought to move issues of concern to working families to the fore.  At the Republican Convention in San Diego, labor had street blimps driving around the city, a small plane with a banner flying overhead, signs and people in the protest area, and more.  In Chicago, labor had a very strong presence. 

Labor unions, corporations and incorporated membership organizations--a category which includes groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to the Sierra Club--are prohibited by federal election campaign laws from making contributions or expenditures in conjunction with federal elections. They can engage in a broad array of nonpartisan political education activities such as distributing voter guides, holding forums, etc. Further, these organizations can establish separate segregated funds or political action committees which are allowed to make partisan communications to their members. The tax-exempt status of non-profit groups is predicated on their not engaging in partisan activities, but a group's affiliated PAC can make endorsements, which of course sends a message to the broader public. 

2000 Activities
Brigham Young University--Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy's Report on Issue Advocacy in the 2000 Presidential Primaries (7/00)
Center for Public Integrity--Stealth PACs Revealed: Interest Groups in the 2000 Election Overview (2/01)

Interest Groups Take to the Airwaves

Abortion  --  Economy, Spending and Taxes  --  Education  --  Environment  --  Faith and Religion  --  Foreign Relations  --  Generations (Youth, Seniors) --  Gun Control/2nd Amendment -- Health Care  --  Immigration  --  Partisan and Ideological --  Not Yet Classified
Editor's Note: DEMOCRACY IN ACTION welcomes your suggestions for P2000-specific interest group links.  E-mail to

National Right to Life Committee's Election 2000
NARAL Election: Choice 2000
Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Republican National Coalition for Life
Republican Pro-Choice Coalition

Economy, Spending and Taxes
Citizens Against Government Waste's Presidential Spending Meter
Concord Coalition's Five Questions to Ask Candidates (10/1/00)
Concord Coalition Issue Brief: Social Security Reform (6/28/00)
United for A Fair Economy's "Billionaires for Bush or Gore"
Citizens for Tax Justice's Campaign 2000 Information Page
Small Business Survival Committee's "Report Card on the Candidates' Tax Plans" (2/21/00)
Concord Coalition's "Key Questions Voters Should Ask Candidates..." (12/15/99)
Iowans for Sensible Priorities

National Taxpayers Union Foundation Study on Bush, Gore Education Proposals (7/6/00)
PFAW Foundation "Failing the Children: George W. Bush's Education Proposals and Their Impact on Poor Kids" (5/4/00)

National Urban League's "Opportunity Watch" Rates the Presidential Candidates (1/13/00)
League of Conservation Voters' 2000 Presidential Profiles (1/13/00)
Texas Air Crisis Campaign (10/19/99)
Friends of the Earth Political Action Committee Endorses Bradley (9/14/99)
PETA's GoreNoMore

Faith and Religion
National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference Presidential Candidate Questionnaire (10/19/00)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (8/29/00)
Anti-Defamation League letter to Sen. Joseph Lieberman (8/28/00)
Anti-Defamation League letter to candidates (12/20/99)
National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference "Faithful Citizenship: Civic Responsibility for a New Millennium" (10/19/99)
The Interfaith Alliance's Call for Civility
Christian Coalition Countdown to Victory
    Report on the Christian Coalition's Road to Victory '98 (9/18-9/19/98)
    Report on the NH Christian Coalition's Gala (2/6/99)

Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations' Campaign 2000
Human Rights Watch's Challenge to Candidates

Generations (Youth, Seniors)
AARP/VOTE's "Election 2000"

Gun Control/2nd Amendment
Handgun Control Inc.'s (launched 5/4/00)
NRA-ILA Grassroots-Voter Registration Info

Health Care
California HealthCare Foundation's "Election 2000: What the Candidates Say About Health Care" (7/22/00)
National Mental Health Association's "Report Card on the Presidential Candidate's Health Plans" (2/28/00)
American Cancer Society's "Campaign Against Cancer" (1/13/00)
American Medical Association "National House Call" Tour (launched 12/15/99)
Citizens for Long Term Care (launched 4/7/99, had offices in NH and Iowa)
Long Term Care Campaign

Immigration's "Presidential Candidates on immigration numbers..."

Partisan and Ideological Groups
Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential Candidates Forum (12/1/99)
Republican Leadership Council TV spots
Log Cabin Republicans' "Strategy 2000"
DLC's Blueprint
The 2000 Committee for a Conservative Platform (7/19/00)
Committee to Restore American Values' Presidential Survey (1/99)

Not Yet Classified
Americans for Tax Reform's Gore's Lies
A Presidential Candidate Pledge--For the Importance of Marriage & Family (Des Moines Register 8/13/99)
Peace Action's Peace Voter 2000
AFL-CIO Labor 2000 "Which Side Are They On"
AFL-CIO Endorses Gore (10/13/99)
SEIU's Priorities for a New Century
Human Rights Campaign
Internet Policy Institute's "Briefing the President" (launched 11/9/99)

American Center for Law and Justice letter "Churches, Free Speech, and the Regulations of the IRS Regarding Elections"   >>

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.