A Tale of Two Leagues: Parties, Interests, and Elections in the 1930s by Emily Charnock
Date: 1:30pm PST December 4, 2012 Location: JRHH 243
In this presentation, I will discuss an important wave of interest group electioneering appearing in the 1930s – one that laid the foundations for the formation of Political Action Committees (PACs) in the 1940s, and the dramatic escalation of interest group electoral activity over the subsequent decades. Prior to this point, interest groups had largely avoided the electoral arena and focused instead on legislative lobbying – an activity they pursued in a bipartisan fashion. Amid the economic and political turmoil of the early 1930s, however, business and labor interests would enter the electoral fray in a newly visible and assertive way, choosing opposing party sides in the 1936 election. They forged new organizations – the “American Liberty League” and “Labor’s Non-Partisan League” – to do battle on behalf of their favored presidential contenders, and carved out a new financial role for non-party actors in election campaigns. Though they also took pains to distinguish their efforts from truly partisan activity, the strategies and tactics these two Leagues formulated, and the justifications in which they would embed their newly assertive electoral role, would set the stage for a much more proactive and partisan style of interest group electioneering in years to come.