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California Journal of Politics and Policy

Managing Editor: Lubenow, Gerald

Ed. by Citrin, Jack / Cain, Bruce / Noll, Roger

Power to the People: Checking Special Interests in California

Stacy B. Gordon Fisher1 / Kimberly L. Nalder2 / Matthew Lesenyie3

1University of Nevada, Reno

2California State University, Sacramento

3University of California, Davis

Citation Information: California Journal of Politics and Policy. Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 1–23, ISSN (Online) 1944-4370, DOI: 10.1515/1944-4370.1198, February 2012

Publication History

Published Online:

There has long been concern about the role of interest groups in the policymaking process, especially the effect of group money in legislative elections/decision making and informal relationships between lobbyists and legislators. The result has been more than four decades of reform in California, beginning with the legislative ethics code in 1966. The current reform regime does almost all it can to regulate behavior through disclosure rules and limits on gifts and contributions. Interest groups play an important role in policymaking and increased constraints on their activities may be counterproductive. Future reforms should not focus on controlling legislator/lobbyist interactions, but empower the public to become more involved in the policy process as a counterweight to interest group pressure. We propose ways to improve the usability of available government information to make the public more active in policymaking and elections. Accountability and quality of policy will improve as both interest groups and interested citizens influence legislative decisions.

Keywords: special interests; legislative ethics; campaign finance; electoral reform; lobbyists

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