... We have _got_ to get private interest money out of our government...
I know you were just abbreviating, it's really not that simple of course. We all agree that one of the major flaws of the political system is the apparently unfettered and exclusive access that big donors (corporations and the like) have to Congress and the President, indeed to government at all levels.
But each of us are citizens, each with our own "private" interests. What if my uncle wants to keep a proposed highway from running through his farm, one that has been in the family for generations? The highway happens to be $trongly $ponsored by the consortium of small oil refiners in the southern part of the state looking to reduce their transportation costs. They don't give a hoot what properties the highway goes through, or the damage to the way of life building the highway will cause - it's just a simple dollars and cents issue to them.
As it turns out, one of the candidates on the election ballot is also strongly against the higway, so my uncle contributes
to his campaign, and actually organizes many other like-minded property owners to contribute
as well. Then when the candidate is elected (yipee!), my uncle's group hires
someone with experience in government to work to get on the legislator's schedule and convince him to make it a priority to block the legislation funding the highway. This person my uncle's group has hired, yes a lobbyist
(angry2) , even buys
ads on local TV and radio in the legislator's district, to sway people against the highway. My uncle invites the legislator to his farm, (transportation at my uncle's expense
), shows him around and takes him hunting, to show him a way of life that would be lost if the proposed highway is not blocked.
My hypothetical uncle is a "special", or "private", interest, as are his partners in that effort, as we all are. So, yes, we all agree buying legislators' votes by corporations is wrong and immoral. But we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater in terms of allowing democracy to work as intended - citizens having access to legislators, and legislators voting to reflect the will of the people. Likewise, not all money spent in the process is inherently evil, as maybe the examples above show.
It seems to me that "special interest" has come to mean nothing more than a derogatory term to be applied to a group of people whose political views we disagree with (the unsaid to follow of course is: "burn her"!). Where I work, the majority of the people (or at least the loudest) are radical right Republicans, and so Fox News is on in the lunch room. I hear the bubbleheads there talk about money that the "Environmental Special Interests" or "Anti-War Special Interests" spend, with the same disdain/hatred we may talk about "Big Oil" or the NRA. It's too simple to tar everyone we don't agree with with the same brush, calling them a "special interest" . All the candidates, Obama and Clinton included, are guilty of this type of pandering, apparently having low expectations of their supporters ("Let's toss them red meat here, they'll cheer loudly at this point of the speech").
The hard part is precisely defining at what point the process moves from reasonable into sleazy. The candidates don't seem to address that very often, and as long as their constituents don't hold them to task, they never will. Our responsibility as citizens is to make our government better (like life in general, complaining about it while doing otherwise doesn't carry much weight). Voting for the candidate who comes closest to the ideal, and then working with them and the process from there, seems a good place to start.