I don’t think organizations representing just a few people are any less legitimate than those representing millions. I fully believe in minority rights and the smallest minority is the individual. But the situation changes when just a few people (or an individual) attempt to infringe upon the rights of the many. Hence the right of an innocent individual with dark skin to be left alone trumps the interests of 10,000 KKK members who wish to lynch him or her.
That said there are those that effectively use the phrase “special interests” to denigrate organizations and people who attempt to affect legislation through campaign donations or lobbying efforts. I don’t really understand the power this phrase on the population at large but it does seem to be effective in swaying public opinion. Why don’t people think in terms of the merits of the points made by each side rather than vague catch phrases like “special interests”? I don’t get it, but if those are the rules for this game then I would like to try my hand at playing the game for a few minutes.
I find it “interesting” that the VPC uses the phrase “special interests”* to describe pro-gun organizations. The NRA has several million dues paying members and hence their money comes from millions of members and they represent those millions of members and to a somewhat lesser extent 80 or 100 million gun owners who are not NRA members.
How many members does the VPC have? They don’t tell us. We do know a little about their gross income and income sources though. In 2006 they had an income of $700k. Would anyone like to take a guess on how many donors they had 2006? If it was a grass roots organization like the NRA they might receive an average of perhaps $50 per member. This would translate into 14,000 members. Compared to the multiple millions of NRA members who are they to call the NRA a “special interest”? Isn’t an organization with only 14,000 members much more of a “special interest” than an organization with nearly 300 times as many members?
Even handicapped with the assumption above I think I could successfully defend the position that the VPC is the actual “special interest” group in this debate. But that assumption of the VPC being a grass roots organization with 14,000 donating members is wrong. What if they only had 1000 donors? What then? Or what if they had 100 or just 10 donors? Now we are talking about a really special interest group attempting to influence laws and policies that affect many millions of people for each of one of the donors. If they had that few of donors the Westboro Baptist Church is a better representation of the citizens of the United States.
But in 2006 the VPC didn’t have just 10 donors. It had one donor. Yes! ONE donor.
Another game of “Special Interests” anyone?
Update: The link to the Joyce Foundation may not work. From some IP addresses it does and from others it doesn’t. Try my save of the grant page (the year selection doesn’t work, go to “Page 5” instead).
Update 2: See also Howard Nemerov’s post on the same topic.