Do lobbyists and special interest groups really help legislators craft effective legislation, or do they impede the rights of ordinary citizens? This is a question that has been asked by many in the political arena, and one that Mike Butts, a government reporter for the Idaho Press-Tribune, sought to answer by speaking to Idaho legislators and political experts. The United States Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a group of conservative think tanks whose model legislation influences 1,000 bills a year in states across the country. Many Idaho legislators are members of ALEC, including Senator Patti Anne Lodge, Republican for Huston, who is also the president of the Idaho ALEC. Research has shown that the richest, oldest and most experienced Idaho residents and the most ideologically extreme respondents are much more likely to donate to political campaigns, suggesting that they have an additional way of influencing politics that isn't available to younger, lower-income citizens.
People donate money to political campaigns to support individual candidates and political parties, as well as to support specific policies. The State of Idaho is committed to providing equal employment opportunities and to prohibiting discrimination against people who qualify because of their status as protected veterans or people with disabilities, and to prohibit discrimination against all people based on race, color, religion, political affiliation or beliefs, sex, national origin, genetics, or any other condition protected by applicable federal, state, or local laws. The United States Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has created its own political action committee called Idaho Freedom PAC, and it carries out much of its campaign activities through those two entities. Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor from Massachusetts who wrote a book on dark money and has researched links to dark money at the Idaho Freedom Foundation, said he has seen similar tactics in other states but none of them are like what is happening in Idaho.
Active participation in politics through protests, contacts with public officials, or donations to political campaigns is at the heart of local politics in Idaho and the United States. It helps citizens express their voices in a variety of public formats. Since Republicans have a supermajority in Idaho, Republican voters may feel that their voices are being heard in the government and thus have less incentive to participate in protest policies. On the other hand, since self-styled Democrats have limited political representation in Idaho they may be more motivated to participate in protest policies. Brian Wampler is a professor of public scholarships and participation in the Office of the Provost of Boise State University and professor of Political Science at the School of Public Service.
According to Wampler's research 22% of respondents say they have made a donation to a political cause or political campaigns during the previous year. In conclusion, special interest groups play an important role in politics in Boise, Idaho. They provide an additional way for citizens to influence politics that isn't available to younger or lower-income citizens. They also provide an avenue for citizens to express their voices through protests or donations to political campaigns. However it is important for citizens to be aware of how these groups operate so that they can make informed decisions about how they want their voices heard.