Interests groups with vast financial resources have had a negative impact on American democracy. This is not surprising because this trend correlates with a shrinking middle class. As more and more of the nation's wealth is concentrated into the hands of fewer individuals, there must be a deleterious impact on the country's democracy. In the nineteenth century, corrupt corporate titans openly bribed politicians. Today, they are more subtle—but no less damaging to democracy. Nowadays, interest groups and wealthy individuals use Political Action Committees (PACs) to influence election campaigns.
One problem that predates the massive recent influx of cash into campaigns is the length of elections. Presidential elections in the U.S. take about two years, and they are extremely expensive. If they were shorter—as in the case in most other advanced democracies—they would not need so much financing. Shorter presidential elections might have other benefits, too. For instance, they may lead to a higher voter turnout. And more public participation in U.S. elections would at least partially blunt the power of well-funded interest groups. Campaigns for the U.S. House and Senate are also extremely costly, and some members of Congress spend hours a day raising funds.
One example of a moneyed interest group is the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA outspends its political opponents by a ratio of 40 to 1. Because of this, repeated efforts to enact gun-safety measures have been blocked. But most public opinion polls show that the public clearly supports an assault-weapons ban. Indeed, well-funded interest groups cause a divergence between public opinion and government policy. In fact, the NRA is so powerful that it played a decisive role in the defeat of Al Gore in the presidential election of 2000.