Interest Groups and Lobbying
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Chapter Five Interest Groups and Lobbying Introduction While political parties are concerned with ensuring that their members are elected to various governmental positions, interest groups are more interested in seeing that the policies they favor are enacted into law, regardless of which party controls the government. Thus, parties tend to be more personnel oriented , while interest groups are more issue oriented. Of course, those lines are often blurred by the fact that some interest groups are more likely to support one party over another,since that party and its members are,in turn,more likely to favor a group’s interests than is the other party (e.g., mining and ranching interests are likely to find that working with Republicans is easier for them than attempting to persuade Democrats, who are more often sympathetic to environmental causes). The decline in the importance of political parties in the United States that was noted in chapter 4 has been accompanied by a rise in the power of interest groups. A study of Nevada politics and history, therefore, would not be complete without an examination of the interest groups that have affected the state since its inception. Political scientist DonW.Driggs has argued that the dominance of various interest groups in the state has changed over time.1 Not unexpectedly,the first fifty years of statehood found railroad and mining interests dominating the political landscape. Chief among the lobbyists for those groups were Charles “Black” Wallace of the Central Pacific Railroad and various agents of the big California banks (the “Bank Crowd”) that owned the most lucrative mines in the state. In addition to using the usual forms of political activity, Wallace and his counterpart with the Virginia and Truckee (V & T) Railroad, H. M. Yerington, ensured their success through bribery, vote buying, and intimidation (see chapter 11). For the next fifty years, from roughly 1908 to 1958, the chief forces in the state were those representing Nevada’s powerful political machines. From 1908 until he lost most of his wealth in the Depression, George Wingfield controlled the state’s politics through a bipartisan, but predominantly Republican, machine . He was replaced by the machine of Senator Pat McCarran, a Democrat, and his allies, John Mueller and Norman Biltz. The McCarran-Mueller-Biltz machine was dominant until McCarran’s death in 1954, when he was replaced by E. L. Cord, inventor of the Cord automobile. The Cord-Mueller-Biltz ma61 chine, however, suffered a staggering blow in 1958 when Grant Sawyer defeated the machine’s candidate for governor. Driggs notes that Sawyer’s 1958 victory spelled the end of machine politics in the state. Since that time, no one group has dominated the state’s politics in the way that the railroads and the Bank Crowd had done. That is not to say, however, that some groups and individuals are not more successful than others. Since 1958, three groups in particular, three organized and one not, have been highly successful in influencing state politics. Not surprisingly, gaming interests have been extremely powerful in the state. As the state’s chief industry and primary campaign contributor, gaming has been extraordinarily successful in getting its preferred candidates elected to office in large numbers. Although they do not have the financial resources of the gaming industry, the various state teachers’ organizations have also been successful in obtaining their goals in Nevada. The teachers’ unions are unable to contribute monetarily to campaigns to the same degree as gaming; however, they have thousands of volunteers at their disposal to walk districts, stuff envelopes, and engage in other forms of campaigning that candidates depend upon to win elections. After the boom-and-bust cycles of mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the industry made a comeback in the late 1960s after the discovery of heap leaching, which allowed small amounts of gold to be economically taken from large amounts of ore through the use of cyanide. In 2011, compared to the $10.7 billion in gaming revenue, mining brought to the Sagebrush State $9.6 billion, $8.8 billion of which came from silver and gold.2 Yet in spite of that figure, the mining industry has generally been out of the minds of those Nevadans not employed or dependent upon it.“Out of sight, out of mind” has historically allowed the industry to maintain its privileged place in the state constitution (see chapter 2). However, as mineral prices, particularly gold, began to dramatically increase in the first and...