CONNstruction - Spring 2009 - (Page 13)

newsandviews In Defense of “Special Interests” During the 2008 presidential campaign and the nominating contests that preceded it, there was a great deal of rhetoric about “special interests.” Politicians decried the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. Candidates competed sanctimoniously for the mantle of whose campaign was more devoid of lobbyists or which one was less beholden to special interests. “The McCain campaign is funded and run by lobbyists and special interests, and the Obama campaign doesn’t take a dime from special interests,” said a spokesman for then-Senator Barack Obama. “Special interest influence prevailed over the public’s interest” on a bill before Congress, Sen. McCain said during a debate for the Republican nomination. “For seven long years,” Sen. Hillary Clinton proclaimed, “we’ve had a government of, by and for the corporate special interests. They have been heard first, they have been heard loudest, and they have drowned out everyone else.” As if that were not enough, last December, a federal district court judge wrote in a decision in Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield, finding a ban on campaign contributions by lobbyists and certain state contractors does not violate their First Amendment rights of speech and association, that the legislature had a “constitutional, sufficiently important interest in combating actual and perceived corruption by eliminating contributions from individuals with the means and motive to exercise undue influence over elected officials.” One would think “special interests,” whatever the term means, run Washington and the state legislature. Notwithstanding their apparent effectiveness, what do the claims of special interest influence say about lawmakers? In an editorial following the decision, The Hartford Courant proclaimed, “[e]verything that can be done to By Matthew Hallisey CCIA Director of Government Relations and Legislative Counsel remove special interest influence from the political process should be done.” Lobbyists and “special interests” may be a convenient target on the campaign trail, in some courtrooms and in the media but, when it comes time to govern, they play an essential – and fundamental – role in our democracy. While claims of special interest influence make for effective sound bites on the evening news, they are really a poll-tested gimmick by some politicians to pander to an electorate that feels disenfranchised while continuing to listen to – and solicit funds from – those same interests. The claims really are grounded in policy differences with an organization representing a point of view with which the lawmaker simply disagrees. Thanks to those special interests, spending is kept in check, taxes are minimized, unnecessary, burdensome regulations are defeated and, yes, in some cases, programs are adopted. Lobbyists play an important role in making laws. They are a source of good, credible information, whether it is about the effect of a law on an industry or why a regulation harms business. They reduce transaction costs – for lawmakers and the public. On our behalf, lobbyists petition government – exercising a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. Contractors work diligently to provide services that the state does not otherwise deliver. They build the roads that the vast majority of us drive on, the buildings we work in and the systems that deliver water to or remove waste from our homes and businesses. Virtually every citizen in this state and in the country is a member of a special interest group. Organizations represent cancer patients, including children, which advocate for legislation to enhance research or authorize funding to develop medicines. Special interests represent the elderly, people without medical insurance, labor unions, and the environment. There are even organizations that represent judges and persons seeking to ban contributions to lawmakers. Now more than ever, as Connecticut and the nation are in the midst of a prolonged economic recession, those same special interests politicians criticize will be called upon for information about the effects of lawmakers’ actions on industry and other groups. For CCIA, this presents challenges and opportunities to advocate its legislative priorities, including funding of infrastructure spending in conjunction with a federal stimulus package and opposition to a state false claims act that would harm lawful businesses and state contractors. CONNstruction / Spring 2009 / 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CONNstruction - Spring 2009

CONNstruction - Spring 2009
The Proving Year
AGC’s Building Division – Where the Value Shines Through
A List Worth Checking
In Defense of “Special Interests”
The Vexatious Litigant
Your Industry Association Membership - Now More Than Ever
Executive Summary
CCIA’s Executive Committee and Officers for 2009
CCIA Board of Directors 2009
Association Activities
Education and Training
Legislative-Lobbying and Government Relations
Labor Relations
CCIA Division Officers
CCIA Staff
Plenty of Parking
Building a Foundation
Connecticut Roadbuilders Fall Meeting
UCAC Annual Scholarship Auction
2008 CCIA’s Annual Membership Meeting and Reception
Diggers/Mixers/Fixers Golf Outing
AGC/CT Industry Recognition Awards Dinner
Index to Advertisers

CONNstruction - Spring 2009