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Texas Politics - Interest Groups
A selection of interest group voter guides A selection of interest group voter guides
issue ads
5.3    Organizing Electoral Competition

Interest groups are often deeply concerned with the outcomes of elections, and they promote their concerns, support candidates who will support their positions, and oppose candidates who disagree with them. Though interest groups usually do not explicitly label candidates as members of their group (as parties do), candidates and parties seek interest group support. Interest groups in turn inject considerable resources into campaigns, sharpening the distinctions among candidates, providing information on issues over which candidates compete for voter support, and often affecting election outcomes.

Interest groups make campaign contributions that help pay for campaign expenses such as public events and advertising. Interest groups also participate indirectly by producing voter guides and summaries of the issues designed to aid voters. Such materials are designed to increase voters' awareness of specific issues and to call attention to candidates' records on "their issues." The costs and production of these voting guides are regulated by both state and federal law and sometimes become issues in themselves - as candidates, the public, and the news media evaluate the claims interest groups make about candidates. However controversial, information distributed by interest groups has become a fixture in Texas elections.

Interest groups in Texas (and outside the state) may also buy television advertising meant to influence elections. Such spots, often called issue ads, are typically justified as "educational" and, by law, are not supposed to be coordinated with candidate campaigns. But they are usually intended to affect election outcomes by helping specific candidates, or to bring public pressure to bear on government decision makers. Interest groups also work to increase voter participation. They often encourage or even directly help people to get to the polls. They use phone banks to call voters sympathetic to their cause just before elections to remind them to vote. Some groups organize car and van pools that can be used to drive people to the polls. Another common election-day activity is to arrange care for voters' children while they vote. Throughout a campaign, from the first contribution and endorsement to getting out the vote on election day, interest groups are integral to competition for elected office.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 103
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