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Interest Groups


Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy Edwards/Wattenberg/Lineberry Ch 11 Keeping the Republic Barbour & Wright Ch 13 Living Democracy – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Interest Groups

Interest Groups
Government in America People, Politics, and
Policy Edwards/Wattenberg/Lineberry Ch
11 Keeping the Republic Barbour Wright Ch
13 Living Democracy Shea/Green/Smith Ch 13
The Role of Interest Groups
  • Interest group an organization of people with
    shared policy goals entering the policy process
    at several points to try to achieve those goals
  • Interest groups pursue their goals in many
  • Interest groups distinguishable from parties.
  • Political parties fight election battles
    interest groups do not field candidates for
    office but may choose sides.
  • Interest groups are policy specialists political
    parties are policy generalists.

Groups in America
  • Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Amazed how Americans joined various groups from
    social to religious to political a nation of
  • Compared to Europeans, Americans much stronger
    tendency to join together to solve problems, to
    articulate collective interests and to form
    social and political relationships
  • People living in democratic nations must join
    together to preserve their independence and
  • The liberty of association has become a
    necessary guarantee against the tyranny of the
    majority. The most natural privilege of man,
    next to the right of acting for himself, is that
    of combining his exertions with those of his
    fellow-creatures, and of acting in common with
    them. I am therefore led to conclude that the
    right of association is almost as inalienable as
    the right of personal liberty.

  • Robert Putnam
  • Bowling Alone membership in traditional
    organizations from the PTA, bowling leagues,
    fraternities, etc decreased significantly
  • many Americans dont even know the names of their
  • Computer technology creating a society of loners
  • Critics argue increase in involved in
    grassroots local issues and youth sports clubs,
    reading clubs, bunko groups, crime patrols,
    advocacy groups, etc

Interest groups Compare
  • Faction a group of citizens united by some
    common passion or interest and opposed to the
    rights of other citizens or to the interests of
    the whole community
  • Interest group an organization of individuals
    who share a common political goal and are united
    for the purpose of influencing government
  • Political action committee (PAC) the fundraising
    arm of an interest group

Roles of interest groups
  • Represent specific public interests govt
    allocates more attention to large groups than to
  • Lobbying interest group activities aimed at
    persuading policymakers to support the groups
  • Provide a means of political participation
  • Educate the public thru research, congressional
    testimonies and public relations
  • Agenda building - creates awareness of issues
  • Provision of program alternatives
  • Program monitoring assesses effectiveness of

Key difference with party
  • Interest groups seek to
  • influence, not elect

Why number of IGs grown so rapidly since the
  • 1) Cleavages divisions of people based on at
    least one social characteristic, such as
    educational attainment or race
  • IG strive to gather supporters across social
    cleavages, serving as a unifying factor in a
    fragmented society
  • 2) Federal system for IGs, dif access points or
    additional opportunities to petition govt
  • 3) David Trumans disturbance theory theory
    that groups form whenever other interests are
    perceived as threatening or whenever the status
    quo is disturbed
  • As society becomes more complex, divisions
    emerge, which then become the basis for new groups

Proliferation of IGs (cont.)
  • 4) Growth of govt itself IGs form as people try
    to gain a piece of the action or attempt to
    influence how govt allocates resources in
    exercising its new responsibilities
  • 5) Americans are better educated and have more
    disposable income making them more likely to join
    IGs technology makes it easier to target and to
    contact potential members

Theories of Interest Group Politics
  • Pluralist Theory
  • Politics is mainly a competition among groups,
    each one pressing for its own preferred policies.
  • Elite Theory
  • Societies are divided along class lines and an
    upper-class elite rules, regardless of the formal
    niceties of governmental organization.
  • Hyperpluralist Theory
  • Groups are so strong that government is weakened.
    This is an extreme, exaggerated form of pluralism.

Theories of Interest Group Politics
  • Pluralism and Group Theory
  • Groups provide a key link between the people and
    the government.
  • Groups compete and no one group will become too
  • Groups play by the rules of the game.
  • Groups weak in one resource may use another.
  • Lobbying is open to all so is not problematical.

Theories of Interest Group Politics
  • Elites and the Denial of Pluralism
  • Real power is held by the relatively few.
  • The largest corporations hold the most power.
  • Elite power is fortified by a system of
    interlocking directorates of these corporations
    and other institutions.
  • Other groups may win many minor policy battles,
    but elites prevail when it comes to big policy
  • Lobbying is a problem because it benefits the few
    at the expense of the many.

Theories of Interest Group Politics - Elitism
Theories of Interest Group Politics
  • Hyperpluralism and Interest Group Liberalism
  • Subgovernments consist of a network of groups
    that exercise a great deal of control over
    specific policy areas.
  • Also known as iron triangles
  • Consist of interest groups, government agency,
    and congressional committees that handle
    particular policies
  • The hyperpluralist critique
  • Groups have become too powerful as the government
    tries to appease every interest.
  • Many subgovernments (iron triangles issue
    networks) aggravate the process.
  • Trying to please every group results in
    contradictory policies and policy gridlock.

Formulation of interest groups
  • Common problem or threat
  • Resource advantages
  • Can pool together to stretch resources further
  • Effective leadership
  • Interest group entrepreneurs
  • E.g., MADD, 9/11 Widows

What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
Top 25 most POWERFUL lobbying groups in 2001
What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
  • The Surprising Ineffectiveness of Large Groups
  • Potential group all the people who might be
    interest group members because they share a
    common interest
  • Actual group the part of the potential group
    consisting of members who actually join
  • Collective good a good or service, thaqt by its
    very nature, cannot be denied to anyone who wants
    to consume it ex. Public safety, clean air, natl

What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
  • Free-Rider problem Some people dont join
    interest groups because they benefit from the
    groups activities without officially joining.
  • Bigger the group, larger the problem
  • Large groups are difficult to organize
  • Olsons law of large groups
  • The larger the group, the further it will fall
    short of providing an optimal amount of a
    collective good.
  • Overcome Olsons law by providing selective
  • Goods that a group can restrict to those who pay
    their annual dues

What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
  • Small groups are better organized and more
    focused on the groups goals.
  • Multinational corporations are successful because
    there are few of them and, therefore, have an
    easier time organizing for political action.
  • Consumer groups have a difficult time getting
    significant policy gains because the benefits are
    spread over the entire population.
  • Public interest lobbies seek a collective good,
    the achievement of which will not selectively and
    materially benefit the membership activities of
    the organization.

Overcoming the free rider problem
  • Selective incentives benefits available only to
    group members as inducements to get them to join
  • Material benefit selective incentive in the form
    of a tangible reward
  • Discounts on air fares/hotels cheaper insurance
    rates free trips
  • Solidary benefit selective incentive related to
    the interaction and bonding among group members
  • Training classes, competitions, contests, hosts

Overcoming the free riderproblem, contd.
  • Selective incentives, contd.
  • Expressive or Purposive benefit selective
    incentive that derives from the opportunity to
    express values and beliefs and to be committed to
    a greater cause
  • Expanding rights, increasing democracy
  • Interest groups use a mix of incentives to
    encourage group membership

What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
  • Intensity
  • Single-Issue groups groups that focus on a
    narrow interest, dislike compromise, and often
    draw membership from people new to politics
  • Groups may focus on an emotional issue, providing
    them with a psychological advantage.
  • Intensity encourages non-conventional means of
    participation. I.e.- protests

What Makes an Interest Group Successful?
  • Financial Resources
  • Not all groups have equal amounts of money.
  • Monetary donations usually translate into access
    to the politicians, such as a phone call,
    meeting, or support for policy.
  • Wealthier groups have more resourcesand
    presumably more accessbut they do not always win
    on policy.

The Interest Group Explosion
Types of Interest Groups
  • Economic Interests
  • Labor
  • Agriculture
  • Business
  • Environmental Interests
  • Equality Interests
  • Consumer and Public Interest Lobbies

Types of interest groups
  • Economic interest groups organize to influence
    government policy for the benefit of members
  • Corporations and business associations
  • E.g., National Association of Manufacturers,
    Chamber of Commerce, Tobacco Institute, General
  • Unions and professional associations
  • E.g., AFL-CIO, Teamsters, AMA, ABA
  • Agricultural interest groups
  • E.g., American Farm Bureau, Altria, ConAgra

Types of interest groups, contd.
  • Equal opportunity interest groups organize to
    promote the civil and economic rights of
    underrepresented or disadvantaged groups
  • Age
  • E.g., AARP, Childrens Defense Fund
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • E.g., NOW, EMILYs List, Eagle Forum
  • Sexual orientation
  • E.g., GLAD, PFLAG, Log Cabin Republicans

Types of interest groups, contd.
  • Public interest groups organize to influence
    government to produce collective goods or
    services that benefit the general public
  • Environmental groups
  • E.g., Sierra Club, Greenpeace
  • Consumer groups
  • E.g., Public Citizen, Consumers Union
  • Religious groups
  • E.g., Christian Coalition, Anti-Defamation League

Types of interest groups, contd.
  • Public interest groups, contd.
  • Second Amendment groups
  • E.g., NRA, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Reproductive rights groups
  • E.g., Planned Parenthood, National Right to Life
  • Human rights
  • E.g., ACLU, Amnesty International
  • Animal rights
  • E.g., Humane Society, PETA

Types of interest groups, contd.
  • Government interest groups organize to lobby the
    U.S. federal government to influence national
  • Foreign governments
  • E.g., Japan
  • State and local governments
  • E.g., National Governors Association, National
    Conference of State Legislatures, U.S. Conference
    of Mayors
  • Intergovernmental interests

How Groups Try to Shape Policy
  • Lobbying
  • communication by someone other than a citizen
    acting on his own behalf, directed to a
    governmental decisionmaker with the hope of
    influencing his decision (Lester Milbrath)
  • Two basic types of lobbyists
  • Regular, paid employees of a group
  • Temporary hires
  • Sometimes referred to as policy entrepreneurs

How Groups Try to Shape Policy
  • Lobbying
  • Lobbyists
  • are a source of information
  • help politicians plan political strategies for
  • help politicians plan political strategies for
    reelection campaigns
  • are a source of ideas and innovations
  • Mixed evidence as to whether lobbying works

Interest group politics
  • Direct lobbying direct interaction with public
    officials for the purpose of influencing policy
  • Indirect lobbying attempts to influence
    government policymakers by encouraging the
    general public to put pressure on them

Direct lobbying Congress
  • Strategies for congressional lobbying
  • Personal contacts target congressional leaders
    and committee members, not whole HR or S
  • Campaign contributions
  • PACs recent regulations and loopholes coalition
  • Use of professional lobbyists
  • Revolving door tendency of public officials,
    journalists, and lobbyists to move between public
    and private sectors
  • Providing expert testimony
  • Accurate information to Congress

Direct lobbying Congress, contd.
  • Lobbying reform
  • Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, 1946
  • Lobbying Disclosure Act, 1995
  • Employs a strict definition of lobbyist
  • Requires lobbyists to
  • Register with the clerk of the House and the
    secretary of the Senate
  • Report their clients and issues and the agency or
    house they lobbied
  • Estimate the amount they are paid by each client
  • Makes it easier for watchdog groups to track the
    lobbying activity
  • Subsequent easing of restrictions
  • Abramoff scandal increase pressure to reform
    then faded as other intersts (eco!) took headlines

Direct lobbying, contd.
  • The president
  • Target president and Executive Office of the
    White House
  • Office of Public Liaison
  • Revolving door exists here as well
  • The bureaucracy
  • Lobby to get laws implemented favorably
  • Strong relationship with regulators and private
  • Iron triangles
  • Issue networks
  • The judiciary
  • Can take two forms
  • Direct sponsorship, ie. File suit
  • Filing amicus curiae briefs
  • Brief that informs the court of the groups
    policy preferences, generally in guise of legal
  • Interest groups also attempt to influence who is
    nominated and placed on the bench

Indirect lobbying the public
  • Education place issues on publics agenda using
    media, direct mail, and publicity stunts
  • Issue advocacy ads
  • Reforms
  • 527 groups
  • Mobilize the public
  • Larger membership groups are more successful
  • Get-out-the-vote

Indirect lobbying the public, contd.
  • Social protest and mass movements public
    activities designed to bring attention to
    political causes usually done by those without
    access to conventional means of expressing their
  • Unconventional tactics
  • Violence! Ex. Bombings and burnings

Astroturf political campaigns
  • Grassroots lobbying indirect lobbying efforts
    that spring from widespread public concern
  • Astroturf lobbying indirect lobbying efforts by
    interest groups that manipulate or create public
    sentiment, astroturf being artificial
  • Pure grassroots lobbying is becoming increasingly
    rare, but astroturf public interest lobbying is
  • Lobbying moving away from Congress to public, but
    this may not be any more democratic

How Groups Try to Shape Policy
  • Electioneering
  • Direct group involvement in the election process
  • Groups can help fund campaigns, provide
    testimony, and get members to work for
    candidates some form PACs.
  • Political Action Committee (PAC) Political
    funding vehicles created by 1974 campaign finance
    reforms, PACs are used by interest groups to
    donate money to candidates.
  • PACs help pay the bill for increasing campaign
  • Most PAC money goes to incumbents.

How Groups Try to Shape Policy
  • Litigation
  • If an interest group fails in one arena, the
    courts may be able to provide a remedy.
  • Interest groups can file amicus curiae briefs to
    influence a courts decision.
  • amicus curiae briefs submitted by a friend of
    the court to raise additional points of view and
    present information not contained in the briefs
    of the formal parties
  • Class Action lawsuits permit a small number of
    people to sue on behalf of all other people
    similarly situated.

How Groups Try to Shape Policy
  • Going Public
  • Because public opinion makes its way to
    policymakers, groups try to
  • cultivate a good public image to build a
    reservoir of goodwill with the public
  • use marketing strategies to influence public
    opinion of the group and its issues
  • advertise to motivate and inform the public about
    an issue

Understanding Interest Groups
  • Interest Groups and Democracy
  • James Madisons solution to the problems posed by
    interest groups was to create a wide-open system
    in which groups compete.
  • Pluralists believe that the public interest would
    prevail from this competition.
  • Elite theorists point to the proliferation of
    business PACs as evidence of interest group
  • Hyperpluralists maintain that group influence has
    led to policy gridlock.

Understanding Interest Groups
  • Interest Groups and the Scope of Government
  • Interest groups seek to maintain policies and
    programs that benefit them.
  • Interest groups continue to pressure government
    to do more things.
  • As the government does more, does this cause the
    formation of more groups?

  • Group theories pluralism, elitism, and
  • A number of factors influence a groups success.
    I.e., being small or large
  • Interest groups affect policy process through
    lobbying, electioneering, litigation, and going

  • Honoraria fees for giving speeches at special
  • Advertorials advertisements presented as an
    editorial, not to promote a good or service but
    rather to promote a positive image or to advance
    a policy
  • Ex. Oil company ad showing how they take pains to
    protect the environment
  • Think tank nonprofit institutions or group of
    individuals that conduct research on issues of
    public interest or a particular area of public
  • Revolving door practice of public officials,
    journalists and lobbyists to move between public
    and private sector jobs
  • Sen Tom DeLay and Sen Bob Dole are now lobbyists
    for large corporate industries

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  • Sometimes iron triangles face challenges for
    control of the bureaucracy from issue networks.
    These consist of political executives, career
    bureaucrats, management and policy consultants,
    academic researchers, journalists, foundation
    officers, and White House aides, all of whom want
    fundamental change in the way a bureau operates
    its programs. They think about the issues in a
    broader context than do members of iron
    triangles,... Competition among issue networks,
    and between them and iron triangles, is good for
    the White House and good for the country. ... It
    serves as an antidote for entrenched bureaucratic
    interests and political privilege. It enables
    outside policy entrepreneurs to gain access and
    compete with the iron triangles.

Network vs. Triangle
  • Issue networks are an alliance of various
    interest groups and individuals who unite in
    order to promote a single issue in government
    policy. Issue networks can be either domestic or
    international in scope, and many are active
    solely within the domain of the internet.
  • Usually, issue networks push for a change in
    policy within the government bureaucracy. An
    example includes the wide ranging network of
    environmental groups and individuals who push for
    more environmental regulation in government
    policy. Other issue networks revolve around such
    controversial issues as abortion, gun ownership
    rights, and drug laws.
  • In the United States, the various parties within
    an issue network include political executives,
    career bureaucrats, management and policy
    consultants, academic researchers, journalists,
    foundation officers, and White House aides.
  • Iron triangles are the mutually beneficial
    relationships between interest groups, usually
    private businesses and corporations,
    congressional oversight committees, and federal
    agencies. The relationships within Iron Triangles
    seek only to benefit the three actors involved by
    pursuing a favorable policy for the interest
    group, at the expense of the constituencies that
    Congress and the Federal bureaucracy are supposed
    to represent, namely the general public.
  • Issue Networks differ from Iron Triangles in that
    they seek to support the public interests, not
    private ones, by seeking to benefit a wide
    ranging constituency that supports their side of
    the issue. Issue networks can be antagonistic to
    iron triangles as they may oppose a policy pushed
    by a private interest group, and carried out by a
    government agency. This is particularly the case
    in regards to environmental issue networks that
    disagree with the lax environmental standards
    pursued by private energy companies. It is also
    important to note that different Issue networks
    also compete with one another, as in the case of
    proponents and opponents of abortion rights.

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