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interest groups

Imagine a person with an intense devotion to a social cause. He believes strongly in animal rights, or is distressed about the deteriorating environment, or works very hard but is paid very little. What can he do to improve his situation? He can join or start a group with similar interests, with the idea that people together can do more to bring about change than people alone.

interest groups1
Interest Groups
  • An interest group is an organization of people who enter the political process to achieve their shared goals by putting pressure for change on elected officials and policy makers at all levels of government.
interest groups vs parties
Interest Groups vs. Parties
  • Political parties influence government primarily through the electoral process. Parties run candidates for public office. Interest groups support candidates, but they do not run their own slate of candidates.
  • Parties generate and support a broad spectrum of policies in order to attract a large number of voters; interest groups support one policy.
interest group theories
Interest Group Theories
  • Elitist theory: a few interest groups have most of the power
  • Pluralist theory: democracy is benefited by so many groups representing all, or most, people
  • Hyperpluralist theory: too many groups are trying to influence the political process, resulting in chaos and contradiction among government policies
types of interest groups
Types of Interest Groups
  • Economic: concerned primarily with profits and wages. (labor unions, business groups, professional groups)
  • Consumer and public interests: champion causes in the public interest by seeking a collective good, benefits for everyone, not just the member of the group themselves. (environmental groups, consumer groups, animal rights, NOW, etc.)
how do interest groups achieve their goals
How do interest groups achieve their goals?
  • Lobbying: attempting to influence government policies by
    • Contacting government officials
    • Meeting and socializing with officials
    • Providing facts, research, and info to officials
    • Helping to draft legislation
    • Testifying before Congress
    • Filing Amicus Curiae briefs with courts
how do interest groups achieve their goals1
How do Interest Groups Achieve their Goals?
  • Electioneering: in order to accomplish their goals, interest groups need to get and keep people in office who support their causes. Therefore, many groups aid congressional candidates by providing money to their campaigns
how do interest groups achieve their goals2
How Do Interest Groups Achieve their Goals?
  • Litigation: interest groups can sue businesses and the federal government by bringing lawsuits to court
    • They can influence court decisions by filing amicuscuriae briefs
    • They can file class action lawsuits
how do interest groups achieve their goals3
How do Interest Groups Achieve their Goals?
  • Appealing to the public:
    • Rallying their membership to contact legislators
    • Press releases, advertisements, etc.
    • Endorsements of candidates
how do interest groups achieve their goals4
How do Interest Groups Achieve their Goals?
  • Ratings: members of Congress are rated in terms of the amount of support they give to legislation that is favorable to the causes of the interest group. The typical scheme ranges from 0 – 100 percent, reflecting the percentage of times the legislatorsupports the group’s legislative agenda.
what makes an interest group effective
What Makes an Interest Group Effective?
  • Size: large groups can deliver a lot of votes to candidates; however, sometimes there is a free rider problem—because there are so many members, they assume someone else will do the work, vote, etc.
  • Intensity: some groups are intensely committed to their goals. For example—anti- abortion groups, MADD, etc.
  • Financial Resources: money is necessary to pay lobbyists, fund research, write amicus briefs, etc.
the revolving door
The Revolving Door
  • What is the revolving door?
    • The practice of government officials, both in Congress and executive agencies, quitting their jobs to take positions as lobbyists or consultants to businesses.
    • There is a concern that this may give private interests unfair advantage and influence over government decisions.
according to julian zelizer professor of history princeton university oct 24 2011
According to Julian Zelizer, professor of history, Princeton University (Oct. 24, 2011):
  • One of the classic examples of what political scientists called the "iron triangle," — the ironclad alliance between interest groups, government agencies and congressional committees in defense of specific programs — has been the defense budget.
  • Since the Cold War, federal dollars have gone to defense contractors who reap huge profits from the production of certain weapons systems. These companies have become integral to the economy of the communities in which their plants located, and they are protected by the legislators who represent those areas as well as Pentagon officials. Agricultural programs are another case where lobbying makes innovations or reductions in spending difficult.
  • The congressional supercommittee dealing with deficit reduction is spinning its wheels. Indeed, The Hill reported that members of the deficit reduction committee are receiving sizable amounts of contributions from special interest groups, many of which represent sectors (such as health care) that are opposed to what the panel is attempting to accomplish.
  • Without addressing the political dynamics that have fueled many of today's budgetary problems, it will be difficult for Congress to enact substantial changes, or to make sure that any successful reforms last over time.
effects of interest groups
Effects of Interest Groups
  • Are interest groups contributors or distracters from the democratic process?
  • Do they help or hinder the government in making good decisions that benefit all citizens?
  • What did James Madison think of interest groups, according to Federalist #10?