Interest Groups Marshall W. Garland November 12, 2003
Administrative Stuff • Grades are available outside HH16 • Must have unique test ID • Dr. Karp will return on Friday
What are Interest Groups • Closely related to Madison’s conception of a faction in Federalist 10. • “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 community.” • Remember—Madison feared the influence of factions—felt it would undermine collective good. • This is overcome by diversity and Republicanism—diversity dilutes the influence any one group has and Republicanism expands the number of interests. • Raises a question—is a two party system better than multiparty system? • Predecessor to pluralist theory—diversity of interests is good.
What are Interest Groups (cont’d) • Collection of citizens with similar interests who seek to influence governmental policy. • Differences in occupation, economic status, religious tradition, geography, status, and political preferences give rise to interest groups because they have something in common. As a result like minded individuals come together because they share attitudes. • Groups help to define political interests • An “ordering” mechanism • Often fill issue or ideological gaps left by political parties. • Vast increases in the number of interest groups—approx. 30 percent of the growth took place between 1960-1980. • Growth has taken place during a period of party decline-- evident that citizens look more and more to interest groups to speak for them in the political process. • Proliferation due to the expansion of the federal gov’t
How do they Work? • Interest groups convey demands through lobbyists. • Lobbyists are interest group representatives who seek to influence legislation that will benefit his or her organization through political persuasion. • How do you get legislators’ ears—money! (An estimated 2.7 mil. Was spent on lobbying for every member of Congress—the largest are the tobacco companies) • Inevitable outgrowth of democratic politics—with liberty comes proliferation of interests. These groups must communicate demands. • Also follows from republicanism—lobbyists convey groups’ demands to legislators • Arises from specialization and complexity of policy issues—lobbyists provide valuable information on forthcoming policy initiatives.
How do they Work (cont’d)—Normative considerations • Despite these positive characteristics, can also be construed as corrupting democratic process. • Madison’s fears realized—interests of particular groups trump those of the collective good. • Particularized interests impose costs on other groups • AARP demands greater SS benefits, increasing financial demands on government. • Influence of money distorts system, giving unfair advantage to groups with extensive financial resources.
How do they Work (cont’d) • Policy formulation is often influenced by the existence of “iron triangles.” • Often referred to as “issue networks”—constitutes a convergence of interests. • The relatively stable relationship and pattern of interaction that occur among an agency, interest groups, and congressional committees or subcommittees • Ex. Increasing seniors’ benefits: SSA, AARP, and the House Subcommittee on Aging. • Building a Dam—National Association of Realtors, district representative and bureaucrats w/in DOI • A “cozy” relationship forms between groups that have shared interests
Types of Groups (Cont’d) • Single-Issue Groups: • Concentration on one area • Generally leads to greater zeal for particular interest. • Most prominent are on either side of abortion and gun control debates. • Army of God/NARAL • NRA/Handgun Control, Inc.
Types of Interest Groups • Multi-issue groups: • Expertise in a wide array of areas that are related to original purpose: • Christian Coalition—school vouchers, prayer in school • National Organization for Women (NOW)—abortion, reproductive rights, affirmative action, economic equity, and lesbian rights. • Oftentimes evolved from single-issue groups--NAACP.
Kinds of Organized Interests • Economic Interest Groups: • Have economic agenda. • Primarily promote economic interests of members. • Labor unions(AFL-CIO), business groups (ATLA), interests of farmers. • Public Interest Groups • Seek a collective good that does not only benefit members. • Amnesty International, Sierra Club
Interest Groups • Political Action Committees • A federally registered fund-raising committee that represents an interest group in the political process through campaign donations. • Usually represents the political interests of a particular organization or business • Ex. American Association of Trial Lawyers • Originate from the FECA (1971, rev. 1974) • Made legal for interest groups, corporations to form PACs. • Individuals can contribute more through PAC’s—1k directly to candidates and 5k to PACs.
PAC’s (Cont’d) • List of top PAC contributors. • http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/index.asp.
Quiz • Name one interest group. • What are the three points of an iron triangle? • Do you think the rise of interest groups is good for American democracy?