Chapter 12 Interest Groups 2011

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					Chapter 12 – Interest Groups
        AP Government
               Interest Groups
• An organized group of individuals or
  organizations that makes policy-related appeals
  to government is called an interest group.
Types of Interest Groups
         Interest groups form

         • To increase the chance
           that their views will be
         • To influence government
         • To represent interests and
           encourage political
Some interest groups organize because they
have a direct economic interest in
government policies.

Examples of such economic interest groups

   • National Association of Manufacturers
   • American Farm Bureau Federation
Organized labor organizations are
important interest groups in
Washington politics.

   Examples include:
   • AFL-CIO
   • The International Brotherhood of
   • SEIU (Service Employees International
Professional associations also try to influence
  the government:
  –American Medical Association
  –American Bar Association
Some groups, like
public interest groups
and ideological
groups, become
active not out of
direct economic
interest but for some    Public-sector groups
broader purpose.         like the National
                         League of Cities, think
                         tanks, and universities
                         also lobby the
Federalist 10 and Pluralism
 Interest Group Pluralism
“By a faction I understand a number of citizens,
whether amounting to a majority or minority of
the whole, who are united and actuated by some
common impulse of passion, or of interest,
adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the
permanent and aggregate interests of the
                  —James Madison, Federalist 10

James Madison’s Federalist 10 provides a basis
for understanding the strengths and weaknesses
of interest group politics in the United States.
Federlist 10 – James      Madison believed:
Madison                   • Balancing the conflicting
                            interests of different
Because “the latent         factions was the most
causes of faction … are     reliable way to control the
sown in the nature of       negative effects of
man,” Madison argued        factional politics.
that institutional        • Increasing the number
arrangement must be         and variety of factions
erected to control the      actually aided the pursuit
effects of factional        of the public good.
politics.                 • Less likely to dominate
                            political process is large
                            with diverse interests.
Following Madison,
mid-20th century
pluralists argued that
interest group politics
was a major strength      Pluralism is the theory
of American               that all interests are and
                          should be free to
government and
                          compete for influence in
society.                  the government. The
                          outcome of this
                          competition is
                          compromise and
              Pluralist Theory
• Interest groups are important to democracy
  – Allow people to organize to change policies.
• Hundreds of interest groups compete for
  – No one group will dominate others.
• Groups put up a fair fight
  – No illegal activities to surpass other groups.
• Groups are equal in power
  – Each have different resources to their disposal.
Pluralists argued that Interest Groups

• Represent many diverse interests in society
• Provide expert information and perspectives
  that improve policy making.
Critics of pluralism argued that interest groups
• Represent “special interests”
  – do not reflect the broader will of the people or
    the public good
• Over represent the wealthy in society
• Provide self-serving and biased information
  that warp policy making.
                  Elite Theory
• Hundreds of interest groups
  – Only a select few have any real power.
• Interests of only a handful of elites, usually
  business people, are almost always favored over
  other interests.
• Policy battles won by smaller interests are
  usually minor.
  – Power mostly with large multinational corporations.
• System of elite control
  – Maintained by a well-established structure of
    interlocking policy players.
        Hyper Pluralist Theory
• Interest group liberalism:
• Sub Governments, or iron triangles, form
  around a specific policy areas. These are
  composed of
  – an interest group
  – a federal agency
  – any legislative committees or subcommittees
    that handle the policy area.
        Hyper Pluralist Theory
• By avoiding having to choose between policy
  initiatives, government creates conflicting
  policies that waste time and money.
• Groups have too much political influence
  – they usually get what they want.
• Competing sub governments (iron triangles)
  only add to the confusing regulations.
Pluralists and their
critics are united in
their belief that
interest groups are
in American politics.
        Explosion in Interest Groups
• Civil rights and Anti-    • Groups include
  Vietnam War                 Common Cause, Sierra
  movements activists         Club, and NOW
• Form their own interest   • 1970s and 1980s
  groups called the new       – Technological factor
  politics movement.            contributing to the rise
                                and success of new
                                interest groups was
                                computerized direct-mail
Logic of Collective Action
In The Logic of            Because the benefits
Collective Action,         of public policy are
Mancur Olson argued        distributed equally to
about the dynamics         those who contribute
of collective action       to policy formation
and that incentives        and those who do
                           not, individuals have
exist for individuals to   incentives to “free
shirk their                ride” and let others
responsibilities to        invest time, energy,
contribute to the          and money to getting
public good.               policies passed.
The Logic of Collective Action
Both enhancing democracy and
representing the “evils” of factional
politics, interest groups (however
problematic) are a fixture of American
        Collective Action Principle
• According to Mancur Olson’s perspective,
  collective action is most likely to be successful
  among wealthy business owners. This is a small
  group of privileged individuals.
• Lower class groups depend on political parties
• Large groups overcome the following to
  implement collective action
  – Anonymity
  – Claim no one individual’s contribution make much
  – Enforcement.
Selective Benefits
    Types of Selective Benefits

Interest groups       • informational
give individuals        benefits
incentives to join    • material benefits
the group through
                      • solidary benefits
the provision of
selective benefits.   • purposive benefits
       Types of Selective Benefits
• Informational benefits
  – Most widespread – information offered by
    conferences, training programs, newsletters to dues
    paying members.
• Material benefits
  – Measured monetarily like special services, money
• Solidary benefits
  – Friendship and networking opportunities.
• Purposive benefits
  – Appeal of purpose of interest group. Christian Right is
    an example.
The Institution Principle: Institutions routinely solve
collective action problems.

Institutional arrangements provide for a division of
labor, rules regarding decision making, and checks
on the powers of political actors and institutions.

These routines and structured relationships enable
cooperation that alleviate impediments to collective

The obstacles to overcoming the collective action
problem are not insurmountable. By building a
strong organization, interest groups can offer
individuals powerful incentives to join groups and
contribute to the collective good.
Influence of Interest Groups
      Interest Group Influence
 Interest groups seek to
• Influence the creation and implementation
  of policy in the legislative and executive
• Influence the interpretation of policy in the
• Shape public opinion regarding policy
• Influence the outcomes of elections.
    Strategies of Influence
                    Inside strategies include:
                    • lobbying
interest groups
                    • influencing administrative
seek influence        rule-making
over policy         • litigation
makers through
a mix of “inside”   Outside strategies include:
strategies and      • influencing election
“outside”             outcomes
strategies.         • affecting media coverage
     Interest Groups – Going Public
• Grassroots lobbying
  campaigns played an
  important role in
  battles over
  appointments to the
  Supreme Court.
Regulation of Interest Groups
               Direct Lobbying
• Lobbying – attempt by a group to influence the
  policy process through persuasion of
  government officials.
             Lobbying Legislation
• 1946 Federal         • 1995 Lobbying Disclosure
  Regulation of          Act
  Lobbying Act           – requires all organizations
  – defines lobbyist       employing lobbyists to
                           register in Congress.
                         – Disclose
                            • whom they represent
                            • what they are lobbying for
                            • how much they are paid.
                Electoral Politics
• Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (1974)
  – Limits campaign contributions and requires that each
    candidate or campaign committee provide
     • Name, address, occupation, principal business for each
       person donating at least $100
• A political action committee is a private group
  that raises and distributes funds for use in
  election campaigns.
   Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
• Passed in 2002
• Eliminated unrestricted soft-money donations
• 527 committees
  – Named after tax code – run by former party officials
  – Allowed to engage in political spending as are issue
    advocacy groups.
                                                     PAC Contributors to Federal Candidates, Top 10 (2007-08)

                 Operating Engineers Union

       International Brotherhood of Electrical

              American Bankers Association

       Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union


      National Beer Wholesalers Association

                             Laborers' Union


           Credit Union National Association

            American Association for Justice

                                                 0       0.2          0.4          0.6            0.8           1   1.2   1.4   1.6
                                                                                          Millions of Dollars

               Source: Center for Responsive Politics, “Top PACs” ( Based on
               incomplete 2007-2008 election cycle including moneys reported to Federal Election Commission as
               of October 29, 2007.
 When interest groups are able to place their
representative directly on congressional staffs, these
individuals are seen as “stealth lobbyists.”
                       Interest groups “lobby”
                       legislators in efforts to shape
                       policy as it is being made.

                       Interest groups also seek to
                       cultivate access to officials in
                       the executive branch to
                       influence administrative rule
                       making and the details of
                       policy implementation.
Interest Group Actions
               Interest Groups
• Most interest groups try to maintain good
  relations with both political parties.
• “Microsofted” – demonized by the public and
  Congress. Need extensive lobbying efforts.
• Exerting influence on Congress requires the
  interest groups to constantly cultivate easy and
  constant access to decision makers.
               Interest Groups
• In the 1970’s dairy farmers set up their own lobby
  and PAC’s to promote their interests separate
  from other agricultural issues.
Interest groups hire lawyers
to influence the judiciary.

Sometimes groups are
litigants in lawsuits.

Often groups submit amicus     1965, states could
curiae briefs giving their     not prohibit the
perspectives on cases to       dissemination of
which they are not a party.    information of
                               contraceptives by
                               married couples due
                               to Griswold v.
  Interest groups seek
  to influence public
  opinion by
• developing media       • An expensive, well-
  strategies and           designed ad that features
  advertising (known as the successful track
  going public)            record in environmental
• mobilizing citizens at   protection by a major oil
  the grass roots.         company that was
                           published in the New York
                           Times is an example of
                           going public.
             Grassroots Lobbying
• Phony grassroots mail
  campaigns from people
  are used to try and
  influence Congressmen
  on a particular issue is
  known as Astroturf
• A process by which citizens may petition to place
  a policy proposal on the ballot for public vote.
• First promoted by Populist in the late nineteenth
• Most initiatives today are sponsored by interest
  groups to circumvent legislative opposition.

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