Chapter 6 - Austin Community College

Chapter 6 Interest Groups
of Americans Belonging to Various Groups
Why Organize?
• Increase the chance that their views will be
heard and they will be able to influence who
is in office and policy decisions.
• Interest groups enhance political
• Policy versus personnel influence.
• Primary tactics: education, mobilization,
lobbying, and monitoring government
Organizational Components
• Leadership
— Most groups are dominated by a strong
Agency staff to carry out tasks
Passive members
Accordingly, groups are considered
oligarchic rather than democratic.
Why Join?
• Informational benefits - data sharing
and training
• Material benefits - monetary (pay and
• Solidary benefits - social, network
• Purposive benefits - non materialistic
but issue specific
• Ideological - supporting liberal or
conservative agendas
The Free Rider
• Group benefits may be available to the
public (a collective benefit).
• No reason to join the group if you are
already receiving benefits
• Creates a “free rider” problem
SIGs and Democracy
Line of communication
Increases public awareness and action
Great source of research and information
Public watch dog
Access to government officials
Reinforces pluralistic aspect of
SIGs and Parties
• SIGs
Tightly Organized
• Political Parties
– Populate government
– Control policy
– Generalists
– Decentralized
Types of SIGs
• Business and Agricultural (IBM, Farm
Bureau Federation)
• Labor (AFL-CIO, Teamsters)
• Professional (ABA, AMA)
• Consumer Groups (Consumer Union)
• Public Interest (ACLU, Sierra Club,
Common Cause)
• Ideological (People for the American
Way, Christian Coalition)
• Trade (Industry specific - oil, telecomm,
• Seniors (Gray Panthers, AARP)
• Originally single issue group with
selective benefits
• 33 million members
• $500 million income each year
• More circulation of magazine than
Time, Newsweek, and US News & World
Report combined
• Extremely powerful grassroots
The Characteristics of
• Higher incomes
• Higher levels of education
• Work in management or professional
• Group membership has a very
pronounced upper-class bias.
The New Politics Movement
• The New Politics movement began in the
1960s in response to concerns over civil
rights, the environment, war, women’s
issues, and the nuclear weapons buildup.
• Individuals were mobilized to action
through the creation of public interest
• Green Peace, Sierra Club, NOW
• Groups hide real purpose behind public
interest labels.
Conservative Interest Groups
• There has been an explosion of grassroots
conservative activity over the last twenty
• The Moral Majority and Christian
Coalition have attempted to set a moral
Decline in Union Membership, 1948 to Present
Strategies: How to Shape Policy
Electoral Politics
Going Public
Grassroots Mobilization
• Lobbying is a strategy by which
organized interest groups seek to
influence the passage of legislation by
exerting pressure on members of the
• Full time career
• Washington, D.C. - epicenter
• Revolving door between lobbyists
and government
• Money and bad press for “gifts”
Personal contacts
Research and specialized information
Congressional testimony
Legal assistance - write legislative
• Follow up on execution
Using Electoral Politics versus
Direct Lobbying
• Many groups engage in electoral politics
to ensure the election of politicians
sympathetic to the groups interests.
— Campaign contributions through political
action committees
— Campaign activism
• “Issue advocacy” media uses to change
public opinion and influence elections.
Political Action Committees
• PACs - interest groups work in the
electoral arena.
• Watergate Scandal 1972
• PACs regulated by the Federal
Election Commission.
• Contributions are limited to $5,000 per
• Attempts to reform have failed
– Opposed by business and labor
– Importance of soft money.
• DNC and foreign contributions for
PAC Campaign Activism
• Other than fund raising.
• Can be temporary.
• Republican efforts to increase voter
turnout very successful in 1994.
– Christian coalition
• Not much support continued into 1996
for Bob Dole.
• Labor groups increasing efforts in
support of Democrats.
Gaining Access
• Groups must maintain access to the decision
making process through relationships with
Congress and agencies.
— Iron triangle (Interest groups, legislature,
executive agencies)
— Issue network (Add consultants, officials,
activists, academics)
— Corridoring (Gaining influence within an
executive agency)
— Capture (Control of an agency)
Defense Oriented Iron Triangle
Going Public
• Going public is a strategy that attempts to
mobilize the public to support the groups
— Institutional advertising ( Creating a
positive group image)
— Social movements (Boycotts,
demonstrations, marches)
— Grassroots mobilization (Encouraging
members to contact legislators)
Using the Courts
• Groups sometimes turn to litigation when
they lack access or when they are
dissatisfied with governmental decisions.
• They finance individual litigation, provide
attorneys, or file amicus curiae briefs in
support of a particular position.
• Most expensive tactic.
• Used as a last resort at times to slow down
policy process.
Regulatory Efforts
• Federal Lobbying Act of 1946
– Only applies to Congress
– Registration and employer identification
– Only applies to those declaring their
principal purpose is to try to directly
influence legislation
– No agency to oversee
Groups and Interests:
The Dilemma
• Attempts to limit - First Amendment
freedom of speech and right to petition
the government.
• Groups provide access to public officials.
• Business groups are most powerful
• Balance is inconsistent with democratic
• Groups have more impact than voters.
• Regulating groups limits freedom.
• Not really regulating groups limits
Protest and Demonstration