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Interest Groups in Texas


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Title: Interest Groups in Texas

Interest Groups in Texas
  • GOVT 2306

In this section we continue our look at political
organizations in the state. Previously we looked
at political parties. Now we look at interest
groups.Useful External Reading Texas
Politics Interest GroupsTexas Tribune Topics
Interest Groups
Along with political parties, interest groups are
private organizations that attempt to influence
public policies. But they do so without seeking
public office, so they do not have to deal with
the electoral rules that condition the nature of
political parties.
Rather than only having two major political
parties, there are thousands of groups in the
state that focus on the needs of discreet,
isolated groups. In addition, there are
national interest groups within the state that
tie the interests of state residents with those
of the nation as a whole.
Interest groups are central features of
government on the national state and local
level.The best interest groups are able to
influence the actions of members of each of the
branches of government. Ideally they should be
able to tie each together closely so that any
conflict between the three is dissipated. If so,
they can ensure that public policy will favorable
to their specific interests.
Here are three stories about interest groups in
Texas to get things going
Why Texas businesses back reforming the states
criminal justice system.This is an opinion
piece written by the president of the Texas
Association of Business advocating for increased
use of probation for non-violent offenders. This
would help reduce the cost of criminal justice in
the state. The TAB is generally argued to be the
most powerful interest group in the state. Click
here for the TABs 2015 Legislative Priorities.
Why Texas Banned Tesla Motors (Spoiler Because
we dont have campaign finance reform).The
author points out how the Texas Automobile
Dealers Association has lobbied against allowing
Tesla Motors to sell its electric cars directly
to customers. If they can, what use is a car
Craft Brewers Celebrate New Beer Laws.The Texas
Craft Brewers Guild cheered passage of laws that
allowed brewpubs to distribute their beer easier.
The Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas did not
like the changes because they threaten to
undermine their business.
Now A definition
What is an interest group?There are many
definitions, heres one from the Encyclopedia
Britannica An interest group, also called
special interest group or pressure group,  any
association of individuals or organizations,
usually formally organized, that, on the basis of
one or more shared concerns, attempts to
influence public policy in its favour.
Where do they come from?
In GOVT 2305 we discussed the origins of interest
groups and focused on Federalist 10 where James
Madison talks about the inevitability of interest
groups or what he called factions.Here is his
definition of faction
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens,
whether amounting to a majority or a minority of
the whole, who are united and actuated by some
common impulse of passion, or of interest,
adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to
the permanent and aggregate interests of the
Id suggest that the difference between what he
called a faction and what we call an interest
group is simply one of organization. A
faction might be a group of people that have
similar interests while an interest group is a
legally established organization that determines
how best to benefit those interests.
Often they are organized under rules contained in
the federal Internal Revenue Code. Since these
groups usually solicit contributions in order to
fund their activities they have to state what
they do, which may or may not qualify them for
tax exemptions. Heres a little detail from the
Center for Responsive Politics. More on this
below when we talk about the types of interest
groups and how they are organized.
James Madison claimed that there were two
principle reasons why factions formed
1 We live in a free society and we have the
right to form peaceful assemblies and petition
government for a redress of grievances would
later be included in the First Amendment. 2
We live in a diverse, complex society with a
variety of interests. People have a tendency to
form groups that protect those interests.
Beyond that, he argued that forming into groups
that are antagonistic to each other is part of
our nature.
So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall
into mutual animosities, that where no
substantial occasion presents itself, the most
frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been
sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions,
and excite their most violent conflicts.
Translation Well fight about anything. Its
human nature.But he does say that certain
differences are more likely than others to lead
to conflict.
. . . the most common and durable source of
factions has been the various and unequal
distribution of property. Those who hold, and
those who are without property, have ever formed
distinct interests in society.
The wealthy and not-so-wealthy will always be in
conflict.But wealthy interests can also be in
conflict with each other.
A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a
mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with
many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in
civilized nations, and divide them into different
classes, actuated by different sentiments and
views. The regulation of these various and
interfering interests forms the principal task of
modern Legislation, and involves the spirit of
party and faction in the necessary and ordinary
operations of the Government.
As we will see soon enough, there are a variety
of business groups in the state (in addition to
the various others), many of these are in
competition with each other to influence the
nature of public policy in the state. What
benefits one does not benefit the other.
If a faction consists of less than a majority,
relief is supplied by the republican principle,
which enables the majority to defeat its sinister
views by regular vote. It may clog the
administration, it may convulse the society but
it will be unable to execute and mask its
violence under the forms of the Constitution.
When a majority is included in a faction, the
form of popular government, on the other hand,
enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or
interest both the public good and the rights of
other citizens.
Conflict has its benefits.
But this comes at a price
The more interest groups that exist, the less
dynamic government can become. A minority group
may clog the administration and convulse the
society. Either option is better than tyranny,
but it does have consequences.
1 - It can lead to gridlock2 It can lead to
unresponsive government
The principle problem is that connected groups
may be able to establish politics that benefit
them and make it difficult for those policies to
be changed. This can make it difficult for
changes to be made since those changes might
jeopardize the benefits already received by
We will discuss the following set of
relationships soon enough
(No Transcript)
This helps explain why some policies never change.
Mancur Olson, in a book entitled the Rise and
Decline of Nations, argued that as societies
develop, strong special interest lobbies evolve
that make them less efficient and dynamic.
The thesis of this brilliant book is that the
longer a society enjoys political stability, the
more likely it is to develop powerful
special-interest lobbies that in turn make it
less efficient economically.
Jonathan Rauch builds on this idea and calls it
Demosclerosis.He argues that the rise of
interest groups has led to a type of paralysis in
government. Demosclerosis is democratic
government's progressive loss of the ability to
Once programs are established, groups that
benefit from them coalesce around the programs
and do what they can to keep it in place as is.
Any change can jeopardize their interests.
As we will see below, interest groups (the good
ones) are able to cobble relationships with the
principle actors involved in a program that
benefits them, and this is the mechanism that
enhances and maintains their interests.
This involves a few things that can be pretty
unpopular.One is that they pump a lot of money
into the political system. Interest groups are
major contributors to the campaigns of candidates
for elective office. A second is that they get
involved in lobbying and are able to establish
very close relationships with office holders,
especially those in the legislative and executive
People who leave public officer often wind up as
well-paid lobbyists. This helps strengthen the
relationship between interest groups and
governing institutions.These relationships are
given names like issue networks,
sub-governments or iron triangles.
And there are many of these networks in
government on each level.Texas included.
And there are indeed a large number of interest
groups in Texas. You saw stories about a handful
above. Some of these are unique to Texas, some
of these are affiliated with national groups.
Some national groups are based in Texas
socially conservatives ones for example.
Here is one mans list of the types of groups
that exist Business Groups and Trade
AssociationsProfessional AssociationsOrganized
LaborAgricultural GroupsRacial and Ethnic
Minority GroupsReligious GroupsCitizen,
Advocacy and Cause Groups
A simpler way to approach this question is to
divide groups into these two types public and
private.The former attempt to obtain results
that benefit the general population and
distribute benefits widely (examples include
groups that advocate for health, education, or
environmental issues). The latter looks for
results that benefit their members sometimes to
the detriment of others. Business and
professional groups often do so some of the
stories I opened with give examples of this.
As we will see soon enough groups that organize
around private benefits that can be restricted
from non-group members are generally more
powerful than those that seek to promote the
public good and offer benefits that affect
everyone. Click here for an early explanation
of this.
While this guarantees the existence of a large
number of interest groups, James Madison argued
that there was a benefit in having multiple
groups involved in the political system. The
fewer the groups, the greater the danger of
tyranny of the majority. The greater number of
groups, the less likelihood a permanent majority
can control all the branches of government.
But there is a key obstacle to interest group
formation, one that not only makes it difficult
for certain groups to form, but that creates an
imbalance in what types of interests are likely
to be effectively represented by a group.
The Free Rider Problem
While Madison argued that common interests would
bring people together to form groups, he didnt
discuss a central feature of human nature that
makes interest group formation difficult If we
can get something without working for it, we
will. Thats what it means to be a free rider.
If everyone free rides, then an interest group
has no strength. Moreover, the group may not even
form if there isnt enough interest to get one
going.Think about this Are there any groups
effectively fighting for the interests of
students? Why not?
Generally an interest group begins when an
individual or group of individuals figure out
some way to get people to overcome the tendency
to free ride and contribute time and money to
build up the group.They have to figure out the
incentives to do so.
The solution theoretically is easy. If the
problem of group formation is the free rider
problem and that is based on the idea that there
is no need to join the group since youll get the
benefits of the groups effort anyway, then the
answer is to figure out how to provide things
that only members of the group will receive.
These are called selective benefits.
In order for a group to be formed, there has to
be a driving force making it happen. A
political entrepreneur has to develop incentives
for people to join the group. They have to
convince members to avoid the temptation to free
A key political entrepreneur in Texas is James
Leininger. Heres some information about him from
Source Watch
Dr. James R. Leininger, "San Antonio physician
and hospital-bed magnate" is a "conservative and
devoutly religious Republican businessman."
Leininger is one of the biggest funders of
conservative causes in Texas. During the decade
1987-1997, Leininger "spent more than 1.4
million of his personal fortune to affect how
Texans vote and another 3.2 million to change
how Texans think on political issues such as tort
reform and private school vouchers."
It then goes on to list the large number of
organizations founded and/or funded by him.
Perhaps the most notable is the Texas Public
Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank
which develops legislative proposals among other
The Executive Director of TPPF is Arlene
Wohlgemuth who served 10 years in the state
The Director of TPPFs Center for Fiscal Policy,
Talmadge Heflin, also served in the Texas
Legislature, eleven terms.
Staff members of the TPPF commonly spent time
working in the offices of members of state
legislature as well as the offices of executive
and judicial officials. It part of the
revolving door of Texas politics.
Some national organization exist to coordinate
policy making in the state legislatures.Currentl
y the most famous is the American Legislative
Exchange Council.
All of this is possible because if what Leininger
was able to accomplish by creating groups that
provided selective benefits for its members. A
connection was created between participation and
the benefits received.
A selective benefit is a reward or punishment
that fosters cooperation among a group of people
who might otherwise free ride.
There are argued to be four principle selective
benefits that a group can offer potential members
MaterialMembers are encouraged to join because
they will receive material benefits if they do
so. Jobs or business opportunities for example.
PurposiveJoining the group helps one advance a
grand purpose such as cleaner air, greater
public morality, or some other intangible reward.
SolidaryJoining the group puts one in touch
with other, similarly minded people. Social
options increse
InformationalThe group makes its members privy
to information they cannot get elsewhere.
Material interests tend to be the most effective
for organizing people. This makes sense if you
think about it. People are more likely to be
motivated by something that profits them than by
other concerns. This explains why business groups
are among the strongest in the state.But other
incentives can have an impact, especially if it
touches onto a part of an individuals value
But some interests are difficult to organize at
all.This is what marks the difference between
strong interest groups and weak ones. Weaker
groups are unable to offer incentives for
potential members that make it worthwhile for
them to join up.
Heres an example I like to use in class
Students at Alvin Community College.
There are more students than faculty and staff.
So why arent students in charge? It wouldnt
be that tough for students to run for positions
on the ACC Board of Regents and win. There are
over 4,000 students each semester. So what gets
in the way?
Several things First, students are transient.
They are only at ACC for a brief period of time.
Their interests shift to other things as soon as
they leave. Second, students are largely
strangers to each other. This makes organization
difficult. There is no one person a leader
that is known to all students who can help rally
them, and the facts that they are anonymous makes
it easier for individuals to not participate.
Third, the benefits students get lowered
tuition for example - may not seem to be worth
the effort.
Altogether, this makes students prone to the
free-rider problem. Actually the situation is
worse since there is no organization to free-ride
The groups that do dominate tend to be those
focused on the college since it charges property
taxes. Property owners who have to do so have a
greater incentive to participate and since many
are long time residents of the community, they
know each other and are more willing to work
together. Conversely they are also better able to
cajole other to participate.
This is an important fact to understand.The
realities of interest group politics the fact
that smaller groups are better able to organize
and work effectively seems to negate our
underlying assumption of democracy that it is
majority rule. Majorities are tougher to organize
than minorities. Smaller, cohesive groups where
participant know each other are politically
stronger than others.
Its not numbersIts organization
Heres a graph that conveys this information in a
different way.
(No Transcript)
For an interest group to be strong an for an
interest to be able to be represented
effectively it has to be composed of people who
are politically interested and organized.
To repeat the key point not all groups in the
state are effectively represented.
What Kinds of Interest Groups Exist?
A simpler way to approach this question is to
divide groups into these two types public and
private.The former attempt to obtain results
that benefit the general population and
distribute benefits widely (examples include
groups that advocate for health, education, or
environmental issues). The latter looks for
results that benefit their members sometimes to
the detriment of others. Business and
professional groups often do so some of the
stories I opened with give examples of this.
The simple difference between the two is that
public groups address issues that are common to
everyone (like clean air and education) while
private groups address issues that benefit their
members (like business and professional
organizations and labor unions).With that in
mind all groups like to argue that the benefits
they receive will at least indirectly benefit the
public welfare.
An example of a Texas public interest group
Environment Texas
An example of a Texas private interest
groupTexas Business Alliance
Sometimes drawing a precise distinction between
public and private groups is difficult.
Heres another look at a list of the types of
interest groups in the state as organized by Neil
Business Groups and Trade AssociationsProfessiona
l AssociationsOrganized LaborAgricultural
GroupsRacial and Ethnic Minority
GroupsReligious GroupsCitizen, Advocacy and
Cause Groups
Lets look at each in turn
Business Groups and Trade Associations
These are the strongest groups in the state. They
are well organized, well financed, well connected
and skilled in advocacy. They are also relentless
and can push policy proposals for many sessions
if necessary. They generally favor low taxes.
Low regulations and expanded business
opportunities, but their interests can sometimes
conflict internally.
Many groups also work to maintain certain
regulations if they benefit that group. Examples
A business group generally- works to further
the benefits of a narrowly defined area of
business.A trade association is an alliance of
related businesses.
Examples of business groups include
Examples of trade association include
Click here for a story pointing out conflict
between two conservative groups, the Texas Future
Business Alliance and Empower Texans. The TFBA
thinks Tea Party / anti-government groups are
undermining the ability of the state to continue
to attract businesses.
The strength of the business sector has increased
as Texas has become more a center of business and
less dominated by the agrarian sector. In the
19th century, large businesses banking and
railroads primarily were located out of state
and were seen as hurting the interests of the
state. Business regulations were written into the
state constitution of 1876. As these businesses
moved to the state, lured by the growing oil
sector and federal contracts guaranteed by Texans
in Congress, business interests became more
powerful and public policies passed by the state
and written into the constitution reflected their
Sometimes these groups collectively are referred
to as the Texas establishment. Click here for a
book that describes their growth The years
from 1938 to 1957 were the most primitive period
of rule by the Texas Establishment, a loosely
knit plutocracy of the Anglo upper classes
answering only to the vested interests in
banking, oil, land development, law, the merchant
houses, and the press. Establishment rule was
reflected in numerous and harsh antilabor laws,
the suppression of academic freedom, a
segregationist philosophy, elections marred by
demagoguery and corruption, the devolution of the
daily press, and a state government that offered
its citizens, especially minorities, very few
Professional Associations
These groups not only represent the interests of
members of certain professions, in some cases
they provide the opportunity for people to
practice that profession. This allows them to
police who can practice their profession which
not only regulates the profession, it keeps
supply low and salaries high.
Texas Bar AssociationTexas Medical
AssociationTexas Trial Lawyers AssociationTexas
Association of RealtorsTexas Dental Association
These groups tend to be composed of people who
are wealthy, well educated and politically
astute. Thats a key source of their power.The
free rider problem is effectively dealt with by
the fact that generally people have to be members
of these groups in order to practice their
profession. They are where someone demonstrates
the skills necessary to practice law or medicine
or whatever else.
Organized Labor
Labor unions are or at least can be legal
representatives of workers in different
industries in the state. Nationally, their
strength stems from the National Labor Relations
Act of 1935 which guaranteed the right of private
sector workers to organize into unions and
established the National Labor Relations Board
which enforces the law.
Organized labor in Texas was briefly powerful
mostly between the end of WW2 and the 1970s
their strength has waned for a variety of
reasons, mostly related to the rise of the
business sectors and its goal of limiting labor
costs. Minimizing the ability of labor to
organize is central to this effort.
The most important of these was the passage of a
right to work law in 1993. A key source of the
power of labor unions was the ability to run
closed shops, meaning that you had to be a member
of the union in order to work. This guaranteed
strength. The union was able to bargain
successfully for wages or whatever it chose due
to its control of the labor force. Right to work
laws state that workers do not have to join the
union, which undermines the effectiveness of
efforts to collectively bargain.
The effort to pass right to work laws across the
state is ongoing. The NCSL has a brief run down
of the effort here.
In addition to this, the dynamic nature of the
Texas economy, and the fact that the Texas
workforce is becoming increasingly Latino, makes
organizing the workforce difficult. Labor
unions tend to do better in older established
industries where organizational efforts have
already occurred. Newer places of employment
such as Walmart create challenges.
Unions are also hurt by the fact that some jobs
are being sent overseas and the increased use of
digital technology and robotics has allowed many
jobs to be automated.Less labor is necessary
now for businesses to run.
As of 2010 only 5 of Texas workers were members
of labor unions. Union strength is centered
primarily around areas where the petro-chemical
industry is dominant. Most on the Gulf
Coast.Click here for TSHAs entry on Labor
Agricultural Groups
Agricultural farmers and ranchers - groups have
been powerful for a long time in Texas politics.
They are among the oldest of the organized groups
in the state. Some, such as the Texas Grange,
were instrumental in the drafting of the 1876
Texas Constitution.
Farmers and ranchers are argued to be politically
astute, well organized, and know how to be
influential in politics. This is also largely a
residue of their past strength, as Texas has
become more urbanized their strength has been
challenged.One area where this conflict rears
its head is in access to water how much should
be devoted to agriculture, how much to cities?
Current examples of agricultural groups Texas
Farm Bureau Federation
Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups
Racial groups have a long history in Texas.
Currently we think of them as being organized
primarily to benefit racial minorities, but many
groups in the 19th century and beyond were
organized to promote the interests of Anglo
Texans. Racial organization and racial
politics have a long history in the state. Race
relations have also been established in key parts
of the Texas Constitution and statutory code.
Texas racial organizations have also been key
players in the civil rights movement notably
the Houston Chapter of the NAACP.The influence
of the NAACP and other groups is sometimes felt
through the national government than the state
government. Desegregation efforts were successful
at the national level and were then imposed on
Major national Latino groups were initially
created in Texas.LULACMALDEF
The free rider problem affects these groups,
notably Latino groups.Minority groups are far
less powerful in Texas than business groups,
among others.
Religious Groups
Churches have always provided opportunities for
organization. The fact that congregations form
in order to create churches that then serve a
social function offers the opportunity for that
organization to have an impact politically as
People who go to church also vote and participate
in other organizations.
The civil rights movement was fueled in part by
members of African American churches. Many
leaders of the movement were ministers of these
churches. Example Reverend William Lawson of
Houstons Wheeler Baptist Church.
Many organizations that are considered part of
the religious right had their origins is Texas.
One problem with church activity Restrictions
on political activity due to their non-profit
Citizen, Advocacy and Cause Groups
These are groups that promote policies that they
argue support the common good. Often these are
driven by private citizens who have a passionate
attachment to a specific cause, or wish to
promote the interests of groups they believe are
unable to do so on their own.
A principle advantage of these groups is that
they are generated by issue at the grassroots
which makes them legitimate indicators of popular
opinion. Sometimes these are called grassroots
organizations. But not always.
Criticism Some of these groups present
themselves as being grassroots groups, but are in
fact organized and funded discretely by other
groups for example business or trade
associations.These are called Astroturf groups
because Astroturf is fake grass. Click here for
examples of Astroturf movements.
The nature of the issue they promote can be very
broad. They can include environmentalism,
morality, criminal justice policy, consumer
protection, and campaign finance reform among
many other issues.
Examples of groups dedicated to public causes
Texans for Public JusticeTexas Right to Life
CommitteeThe Texas Moratorium NetworkTexas
State Rifle Association
Many of these groups explicitly advocate
ideological policies.Not surprisingly,
conservative groups are easier to organize and
are more powerful in the state than liberal
Tea Party organizations began this way.
Some groups are organized to advocate for
policies that benefit marginalized groups, or
groups that are not in a position to advocate for
Governmental Organizations
Periodically this semester weve looked at
interest groups that represent different
governing entities. This may sound unusual, but
it makes sense in a decentralized, federal
governing system. Each level of government has
certain interests that are affected by the
activities of other levels of government.For
example, two of the interest groups most active
during sessions of the Texas Legislature are the
Texas Municipal League and the Texas Association
of Counties.
Every types of local governments single or
multipurpose has a interest groups that
represents its interests.
Here are a handful that represent the interests
of different members of the community college
sector.The Texas Association of Community
Colleges.Texas Community College Teachers
Association.Community College Association of
Texas Trustees.Texas Association of Community
College Business Officers.Texas Community
College Instructional Administrators.
Governmental employees also have interest groups
that represent them. Texas Public Employees
This is just a superficial look at the range of
groups that exist in the state of Texas
Now lets shift to look at what these groups do
What do interest groups do?Here are four
things, drawn from this website.
Engage in election activities Interests may
attempt to influence elections in order to help
get people who support their issues elected or
reelected. Electioneering techniques include
giving money to candidates, endorsing candidates
or issues, and conducting grassroots activities
such as get-out-the-vote drives.
Lobby government Organized interests hire
representatives to advocate on behalf of the
group's interests. Lobbying activities include
contacting members of Congress and the executive
branch to disseminate information about the
positive or adverse effects of proposed
Educate various publics Interest groups work
hard to educate the public at large, government
officials, their own members, and potential
interest group members.
Mobilize various publics To influence
policy-making, many groups rely on the efforts of
people who are motivated to act on behalf of
their issues and causes. So-called grassroots
activities might include writing letters, making
phone calls, contacting policy-makers, and
All of these are interrelated.
And some detail on each
Engage in election activities
Since the principle goal of an interest group is
to ensure that public policy is designed in a way
that benefits that group, it makes sense that
they will establish relationships with public
policy makers, as well as anyone or any
institution that has some impact on the nature of
public policy.
The best way to do so is to get involved in
elections. This accomplishes or can accomplish
- two major things 1 It can result in
governing institutions that are favorably
disposed to the groups interests.2 It can
help develop a personal relationship with who
ever gets elected.
So the first thing an interest group needs to do
is to ensure that governing institutions are
already oriented towards their preferred
policies. This makes everything else relatively
easy.Business interests along with those of
social conservatives have an advantage since
people who represent their interests dominate the
Texas legislature and statewide office.
The benefits of being involved in elections for
governor can be considerable.
In Texas, the Governor is responsible for
appointing the members of approximately 125
multimember boards and commissions. These boards
and commissions, some with broad policy mandates,
make public policy on the often narrowly defined
issues around which organized interests are
likely to form. Consequently, organized
interests, including businesses, associations,
lobbying groups, and law firms, seek policy
making appointments for their representatives in
these government agencies. source.
What do interest groups do to influence
elections? A few things
They can help recruit candidates to public
office, or at least provide opportunities for
future candidates to prepare for a run for public
office.Anyone interested in running for public
office could do worse than start that effort by
spending time working for an interest group. This
allows for not only picking up expertise in an
area of public policy, it also allows for
developing connections.
If they do not develop candidates themselves,
they can review announced candidates which can
include interviews and endorse whichever ones
they believe most closely reflect their views.
This process often happens during the primary
season since it allows for groups to select from
a variety of candidates within each party.
They can then endorse and fund those candidates
when they do run for office. Here are some
endorsements from the 2014 election Texas Farm
BureauTexas Home School CoalitionTexas Right to
The endorsement process is important since it can
not help someone get elected, it can start to
develop a relationship between a group and an
officeholder, especially one that is newly
Even more important than the endorsement process
is funding.Interest groups often get involved
in funding elections, but they have to jump
through some hoops in order to do so since Texas
and the United States each have histories of
political corruption.
Open ended, unregulated campaign finance has
allowed deep pocketed contributors to effectively
purchase votes in the legislature in the past.
This has led to the passage of a variety of
laws that condition how interest groups can
financially support candidates they prefer.
Often this involves establishing additional
organization most notably Political Action
Committees that allow for alternative funding
Texas rules on campaign finance are much looser
than rules in most other states, or on the
national level.
In addition to funding, interest groups can
support candidates by getting supporters out to
block walk which means they hit certain
neighborhoods with the idea that they will either
talk people who are unsure about who to support
to support their candidates, or ensure that
supporters will in fact get out to vote.This is
one of the strengths of labor unions. They tend
not to have deep pockets, but they can mobilize
This is called electioneering and in addition to
block walking and get out the vote efforts it can
involve the mundane things that campaigns need
done. Making phone callLicking envelopes
Sending out emails
Remember that in the state of Texas a large
number of positions are elected, including the
judiciary. This means that well organized
groups are in a good position to influence all
three branches and perhaps bring them altogether
in supporting their positions.
This they do by building on the relationships
they developed in the election.
Lobby government
Once an interest group has been involved in the
electoral process, and assuming they have been
successful in getting their preferred candidates
elected, then its time to exploit the
relationships they have developed.
This involves a variety of activities, but most
fall under the general heading of
lobbying.Heres a good definition
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence
decisions made by officials in the government,
most often legislators or members of regulatory
Notice that the judiciary is not a part of the
previous definition.But attempts are made to
make sure the judiciary makes favorable decisions
as well.
How is this done?
The first thing is to hire someone with
connections. Most of the most effective
lobbyists have backgrounds in whatever
institution they attempt to influence.
Retired legislators, for example, make the best
legislative lobbyists. Past executive office
holders are best as influencing executive
agencies, and ex-judges are best at knowing how
to influence the judiciary. There are two
1 They know the relevant process in each
institution intimately. Not a textbook
understanding of it, but from the inside.2
They know the people involved in the process,
especially if they recently left the institution.
The second reason might be the most important.
The basic skill of a lobbyist is to open doors.
Thats more likely to happen if someone knows the
person whose door they knock on.
By hiring lobbyists with connections with each
governing institution, interest groups are able
influence all aspects of governing process.
They can ensure favorable legislation,
favorable rulemaking, and favorable court
Sometimes these individuals do not label
themselves as lobbyists. Instead they will work
for law firms that have governmental relations
departments. They may simply call themselves
consultants.All they may do is make one key
phone call, but that may be all that is necessary.
Heres an instructive story Former legislators
kicking off new careers as Texas lobbyists.
You make lots more money as a lobbyists than you
do as a Texas legislator The latest crop of
legislators-turned-lobbyists, identified and
tracked by The Dallas Morning News, collectively
earn an estimated 795,000 to 1.7 million this
year representing corporations, retired teachers,
cities, financial firms, beer and restaurant
associations and other entities, state records
Heres a story that features Tom Phillips who
used to be the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme
Court and now lobbies for the Texas Oil and Gas
The next slide features a diagram of an iron
triangle. It shows how interest group influence
can tie together legislative and executive branch
activity. The story is similar for the Texas
(No Transcript)
One of the factor that binds these institutions
together is the fact that people often go from
one position to the other over the course of a
career. This means that each area of public
policy is dominated in different institutions by
the same group of people. This undermines any
checks and balances that might exist.
This is called the revolving door.Efforts have
been made to minimize the ability of ex-members
of the legislature to work immediately as
lobbyists, but these have been unsuccessful as of
Staff Work
A more subtle way that interest groups can
influence members of the legislature is by
allowing their employees to work in the offices
of members of the legislature. This allows them
the opportunity to both advise the member on
matters of public policy and to also monitor what
they are doing.
Educate various publics
Attempting to influence members of the
legislature is considered inside workAttempting
to influence the general public is considered to
be outside work.
This involves using public relations to influence
how the general public thinks about the issues
and events that impact the interest group.These
can be done in a way that coordinated even
unofficially with political campaigns.
Heres some background on the public relations
industry, and heres a bit on Edward Bernays who
is argued to be the father of public relations.
Public relations is argued to be closely
related to propaganda.
It is messaging that is intended to impact the
public in a particular way. If done properly,
an interest group can successfully navigate a
crisis or impact public opinion at a critical
moment in order to impact the legislative or
rulemaking process.
Here are topical stories as I write this
Texas Health goes on PR offensiveTexas Health
Presbyterian Hospital Dallas has launched a
public relations offensive in response
to accusations from the country's largest nurses'
union that the hospital lacked proper protocols
and equipment to sufficiently protect its staff
in treating the first U.S. Ebola patient. 
Texas open carry movement raises passions,
threats.This discusses public perceptions of
the proponent of the right to carry weapons in
the open.
Texas cancer agencys public relations firm
quits.The firm decided it was in over its head
after multiple problems with the agency emerged.
In addition to educating the public about an
issue, interest groups can also educate the
public about where specific members of the
legislature stand on the issue. A popular way
to do so is to tally votes of legislators about
issues important to the group in order to
determine which members support the groups and
which ones do not. These are also very popular
around election time for both primary and
general elections.
Heres a list of voter guides from interest
groups in Texas complied by Project Vote Smart.
Public relations strategies can involve a variety
of formats newspapers, radio, television, social
media. They all attempt to do a small handful
of things.
1 Raise awareness of an issue. This might be
an issue that is being debated in the
legislature. Interest groups often coordinate
these efforts with the legislative process. The
groups attempt to persuade legislators that the
public is supportive of the issue.
2 Define the IssueIts not enough for an
issue to get on the public agenda, its has to be
defined in a way that is beneficial to the
interest group. This can involve seemingly
unimportant choices of words.
Example What do people think about when they
consider immigration? Are we dealing with
undocumented workers or illegal immigrants?
The difference matters because it encourages
people to think about a group either positively
or negatively.
3 Provide information to people about how they
can get involved.Which leads to the next
Mobilize various publics
Once a group of individuals has been educated in
the manner that the interest group would like,
the next step is to get them to act in an manner
that is beneficial to the group.
This can take a variety of forms.The most
common is to sign petitions, write letters to and
phone elected officials. These are intended to
demonstrate that there are significant numbers of
people that support the interest groups position.
The stronger the groups are the ones that can
mobilize their supporters quickly and at key
periods of time.
The more time intensive the activity, the more of
an impact it has. Forwarding an email for
example is easy to do and has little impact.
Driving to Austin to meet with elected officials
is time consuming and can have an impact
Large public marches, if they are sizable and
well managed, can also demonstrate the intensity
of support a particular position has. But all
of this is balanced against whether the
participants in fact have electoral strength.
Presence at public meetings even if silent
can also impact public officials. Interest groups
often try to pack public meeting board meetings
for example with supporters in order to
demonstrate sizeable support for their position.
A mobilized public can also get involved in
elections.Recall that since elections occur
regularly in Texas and the US efforts to
mobilize the electorate are ongoing.
But again uneven in their impact.
Thats plenty
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