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To back up their all-or-nothing demands, the special-issue groups have developed an impressive array of weapons. It includes the latest computer political public relations technology, which is used in direct-mail efforts to identify supporters and raise money. Under recent election reform laws, it also includes corporate and other political action committees. Perhaps the most significant fact, putting all these developments in perspective, is that such special-interest political committees now raise more money than either the Democratic or Republican party and have greatly exacerbated the problem of the enormously expanding costs of political campaigns. With the political process so fragmented, with special interests well represented in the halls of Congress and increasing numbers of ordinary people declining to vote, every decision to pursue the general interest. every decision to forge a reasonable compromise, becomes a “tough” one. Vital national issues, on which action must be taken, tend to be put off in favor of legislation that no major interest group opposes. The change has been clearly manifested in the 96th Congress. Though there has probably never been a time when the public has been more concerned with consumer issues than today, this general public concern has been so poorly translated into legislative action that it can fairly be said that no Congress has been as antagonistic to consumer legislation as the 96th. No single bill more dramatically illustrates this than the Federal Trade Commission authorization bill this year. Single-issue, special-interest lobbyists from the business community are attacking the FTC’s consumer protection authority on many fronts and in many areas by a special kind of lobbying. Heretofore, the lobby has attempted to convince the Congress on the basis of certain principles. For instance, the lobby attacked a cabinet-level consumer protection agency on the ground that the FTC already constituted an agency dealing with consumer protection questions. The lobby also promoted, again on a rational argumentative basis, the legislative veto concept, which calls for review of administrative rules by Congress with a right to reject such rules as Congress deems either inappropriate or beyond the intended scope of the FTC’s authority. The lobby prevailed on both of these points, but it is now acting in the less reputable capacity of sharpshooter attempting to strike down, politically, rules that have been established by due and proper statutory process but that also, in each case, happen to affect a very special interest. Indeed, the lobby is trying to strike down the FTC’s authority even to consider such a rule. The lobbyists have had a field day taking a shot at each of their targeted consumer rules at various stages of congressional deliberation. It is understandable that some members of Congress are influenced by constituents who have interests legitimately affecting the consumer; but in the aggregate, the attacks by business lobbyists, if successful, would simply dismantle the statutory authority of the FTC to protect consumers in the marketplace. I cite this specific and immediate example to illustrate the political tendency referred to above as a threat to our very governmental system. It constitutes only one instance, but the tendency is broad. The forces with long memories and intense interests, not the forces supporting the common good, weigh most heavily in, the legislative process. The latter, unfortunately, are not sufficiently motivated to press their points with Congress today nor to go to the polls to endorse their champions and reject their enemies. One step toward correcting this great evil would be partial federal funding for the campaigns of candidates for Congress in the general election, as provided by H.R. 1. People would have the opportunity to become more directly involved in determining their congressional representation through a voluntary check-off contribution on individual income tax returns. Total campaign spending and the personal contribution of the candidates would be limited; candidates would still have to raise 50 percent of the contributions themselves, with the other 50 percent furnished by matching federal funds. This process would certainly help stem the excessive dependency of congressional candidates on special-interest contributions. Another step would be reform of the procedures of Congressin many instances, “reform of the reforms”but these are too complex to particularize here. And we should greatly expand the “electronic stump.” I mean by this that we should provide more public-service television time to air the issues of our day. Politicians should be given time on the air, but their feet should be held to the fire to make them address important and controversial issues. While American democracy may survive yet, single-issue politics, narrowly and relentlessly pursued, seriously endangers it. Bob Eckhardt, an attorney, started out as .lobbyist for the CIO in Texas, was elected to the Legislature from Houston, and is now a congressman. A “legislator’s legislator,” he was head of the Democratic Study Group in the U.S. House and is now chairman of the important oversight and investigations subcommittee of the House commerce committee. He is also an accomplished political cartoonist; much of his work appeared in the Texas Spectator and, nzostly during the ’50s and early ’60s, the Observer. Oligopoly in the political marketplace By Lloyd Doggett A//stir/ A person contemplating his demise is said to have resolved the matter by concluding “I’ll move to Texas, for everything happens 25 years later there. If that’s true, and there is no shortage of supporting evidence in Texas history, then perhaps the next 25 years in Texas will be similar to the last 25 for much of the remainder of the country. Whether that means we follow some of the better’ examples and successes of others or fail to learn from their mistakes depends in large measure upon the responsiveness to change of our political system. If we are not to relive the experiences of others, the first thing that needs to be done is to address the problem of lengthy gas lines. These are the gas lines at the legislative service station every two years. Our legislators are attuned to serving the needs of the lobby on demand as it lines up each session with hundreds of requests. Occasionally there will be quarrels among the lobbyists in the gas line to see who gets the most service, but no matter who is first, the price of serv THE TEXAS OBSERVER 33