2 Interest GroupsAn interest group (also called an advocacy group, lobbying group, pressure group or special interest) is a group, however loosely or tightly organized, that advocates for public policy.An interest group can be described as an organized group that does not put up candidates for election, but seeks to influence government policy or legislation
3 Interest Groups & American Politics Organized interests have long been a source of fascination for students of American politicsA. many scholars of interest groups have posited that they play a crucial role in American democracyB. groups help to organize public opinion and participation-iron law of oligarchy -- leaders call the shots they are paid to be attentive, active, etc.1. this is critical because we know that, left to its own devices, the public is uninformed, unconstrained2. and that parties have weakenedC. In short: attentive, active groups perform many of the functions that traditional political theory says should be performed by either the people or parties-makes pluralism possible!
4 Interest Groups in Context Interest groups are a ubiquitous part of American politics:7,000 represented in Washington, DCRepresent virtually every economic, social, ethnic, ideological, religious interest in the nationHelp with the articulation of these interests
5 Interest Groups vs. Parties Interest groups are often lumped together analytically with political parties. But they are very different --- in at least 4 waysA. First, composition1. parties include a wide variety of people, with different concerns and beliefs-parties seek to aggregate interests2. groups are composed of people with specialized concerns, who focus on a few issues-groups seek to articulate (loudly)B. Second, function1. parties seek, in a comprehensive fashion, to elect a slate of officials and to organize government2. groups seek to influence certain public policy decisions on their narrow issues
6 I.G. v. Parties (con’t) C. Third, legal status 1. political parties are treated as parts of the legal machinery of government-examples: given money for conventions, no "whites only" primaries2. groups are considered private associations, outside the formal channels of government, largely protected by 1st amendment-as we'll see, makes them hard to regulateD. fourth, status of members1. parties treat individuals primarily as citizens-appeals are based on the common good2. groups treat individuals as members-appeals are based on more limited (or selfish) grounds
7 Goals: Access & Influence Principal goal of groups is to influence policy decisionsA. U.S. system is particularly amenable to groups1. constitutional basis - 1st amendment right to redress government2. we are a nation of joiners -- organize ourselves into voluntary groups3. our federal system of separated powers guarantees numerous access points-state, local, federal marble cake(if you lose at one level, move up/down)-legislative, executive, judicial(if you lose in one branch, go to others)-Congress organized into committees/subcommittees - so groups know where to focus-elections are generally not publicly funded - groups provide money-weak state tradition -- bureaucrats are more subject to outside pressures than in most other western democracies
8 Two Activity Types1) Public Relations: TV campaigns, appearance on news programs, social appearances, etc.2) Electionneering: trying to effect who does and who does not get elected.Most obvious way: contributing money to candidates that support their issuesProvide labor for campaigns, Mobilize Membership, GOTVLobbying: professional representatives of the IG try to convince members of congress to support legislation the IG favors.Grassroots pressure (stir up people over a salient issue). The IG tries to get its membership to contact the White House or Congress.-petitionsreferenda-organized mail campaigns (tea bags)-president uses now, too
9 More Activities Agenda setting - incubate ideas Rate MCs - voting cue for constituentsAFL-CIO's COPE ScoresChamber of CommerceNEA (National Education Association)ADA (Americans for Democratic Action)ACU (American Conservative Union)
11 Mancur Olson: Logic of Collective Action Olson focused on the logical basis of interest group membership and participation.The reigning political theories of his day granted groups an almost primordial status.Some appealed to a natural human instinct for herding, others ascribed the formation of groups that are rooted in kinship to the process of modernization.Olson offered a radically different account of the logical basis of organized collective action.
12 The Logic of Collective Action The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups was first published in It develops a theory of political science and economics of concentrated benefits verses diffuse costs.The book challenged accepted wisdom in Olson’s day that:1) if everyone in a group has interests in common, then they will act collectively to achieve them; and2) in a democracy, the greatest concern is that the majority will tyrannize and exploit the minority.The book argues that individuals in any group attempting collective action will have incentives to “free ride” on the efforts of others if the group is working to provide public goods. Individuals will not “free ride” in groups which provide benefits only to active participants.
13 Recall the Free Rider Problem PERSON ASOCIETYContributeDon’t Contribute
14 Olson (con’t)In TLOCA, Olson theorized that “only a separate and ‘selective’ incentive will stimulate a rational individual in a latent group to act in a group-oriented way”.That is, only a benefit reserved strictly for group members will motivate one to join and contribute to the group.This means that individuals will act collectively to provide private goods, but not to provide public goods.
15 Free Rider Problem: Interest Groups PERSON ALARGE INTEREST GROUPProvide GoodDon’t Provide GoodJoinDon’t Join
16 Selective Incentives Three Types of Selective Incentives Material SolidaryPurposive
17 Material IncentivesMaterial Incentives: something of tangible value (tote bag, coffee mug, bumper sticker, monthly magazine, discounts etc.)Ex. Senior Citizen discounts through the AARP.a. Best Ex. AAA (Triple A is an interest group active on automobile safety issues). People join the AAA b/c they want free towing.b. Ex. Labor Unions: Closed Shop. In order to work that job, you have to be a member of the union. You join the union (contribute to the ‘public good’), and you get the job. Unions want closed shops because it creates a larger membership and thus more influence.
18 Solidary IncentivesSolidary Incentives: intangible rewards from the act of association -- sociability, status, identification – a social interaction benefit.The reason why you join is because you want to hang out with the folks who are members of that organization.Best ex. VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) – open to anyone who fought overseas, and is primarily a social organization. Veterans wanted to hang out with other veterans. Frats can also be classified as interest groups and they primarily provide social benefits.
19 Purposive IncentivesPurposive incentives: intangible rewards related to the goals of the organization --- e.g., working on an election of a supported candidateA person joins a group for ‘purposive’ reasons because they so strongly identify with that group’s mission—they want to be a part of the cause—even when they know their actual contribution is irrelevant to the success of the group.a. Best ex. Ideologically committed interest groups. Abortion groups (pro-choice, pro-life)
20 Membership & Stability Interest groups that offer material benefits tend to be:The largest groupsAre the longest lastingSolidary groups tend not to be long lasting and tend to fall apart.The VFW thing was mostly a WWII thing, and thus as that generation dies out and are not replaced by new blood…they die out.Purposive IG’s tend to be the smallest…and they tend to be short-lived.People burn-out on the effort needed to keep it going. Or the issue looses saliency…or they win (or loose) on their issue.Of course, interest groups can offer a mix of benefits. The NRA doesn’t just rely on material incentives (solidary and purposive benefits are a part of it too).
21 Do I.G. Leaders Represent Members? Depends on the selective incentives provided by the IG’sIn IG’s that rely on material incentives, there tends to be a low correlation b/w the leaders and the members (leaders don’t tend to represent the attitudes of the members).If you’ve joined for the towing service, it doesn’t mean you agree with their political objectives…in fact you probably don’t even know what their political agenda is.Big reason why Labor Union leadership are Liberal Democrats and the Rank & File Union membership is much more diverse (many more conservative Republicans).
22 Leadership vs. MembersIn IG’s that rely primarily on solidary incentives, the leadership is better reflective of membership. Though they may have divergent interests, usually they are from the same social groups (i.e. the leaders of the VFW were veterans).In IG’s that rely on purposive incentives, there is the highest correlation between leadership and membership views.If the leadership is supporting political objectives you don’t agree with, then you’ll quit since the only reason you joined was because of its political objectives. Membership keeps leadership on a ‘short lease’ in these cases.
23 Types of Interest Groups Membership OrganizationsNonmembership Organizations
24 Membership Organizations: BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS Peak Business Associations: made up of business associations from a variety of industriesU.S. Chamber of Commerce: made up of a bunch of smaller business associationsDon’t come from just one industry (they can be from the banking industry, medical industry, etc.)What do they do: Active on issues that broadly affect the American economy (macro-economic issues) the big economic issues. Ex. Tax RateTrade Associations: made up of business associations from a single industryAmerican Bankers AssociationBow Tie Manufactures Association
25 Membership Organizations: LABOR UNIONS Labor Unions – Made up of either other labor unions or workersLabor Unions are not nearly as numerous as trade associations, but tend to have larger membershipsAmerican Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO) : made up of smaller labor unionsUnited Mine Workers – made up of minersUnion of Journeyman Horeshoers – made up of horeshoersThe UMW & UJH are members of the AFL-CIOAFL-CIO is active on a broad range of economic / political issues, while the unions based on workers tend to just be concerned with issues related to their workers (UMW is just concerned with mining issues)
26 Membership Organizations: AGRICULTURAL GROUPS Agriculture GroupsAgain, there is the distinction between groups that take on general policy issues and those that concern themselves with specific policy issues.American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) – big group that deals with general agricultural policyAmerican Soybean Association – made up of soybean farmers and only deals with soybean political issues
27 Membership Organizations: Professional Associations American Medical Association (AMA) – if you are a doctor, you become a member of the AMA.Numerous professional associations (Lawyer – ABA, Political scientists: APSA).What do they do?Keep their professionals up to date on innovations in the professionLobby Congress on issues related to their professions (tort reform is an issue for ABA).Ex. In Texas there is the Political Science Employment Act: passed laws making students have to take 2 political science classes in collegeAMA is the most powerful political interest group in the United States.Lots of moneyLarge membership (lots of doctors that see a lot of patients)Good on public relationsAMA was opposed to the Clinton Health Care plan, and that played a big part in why it failed.
28 M.O.: Citizens, Advocacy, Cause Groups (Public Interest Groups) Groups that are not primarily involved in economic activityCitizen Groups: are involved in a general issue area. Ex. Sierra Club is involved in a general issue area (environment).Advocacy Groups: are lobbying/active in promoting the rights of some other group that cannot represent itself.Ex. Children’s Defense Fun (kids don’t have the assets to lobby politically).Ex. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Animals can’t lobby congress, contribute money, etc.Ex. Prisoner’s Rights Groups (again, can’t vote, etc.)Cause Groups: A group that is a single-issue group. They have a very narrow focus and care only about that issue.Ex. Operation Rescue (anti-abortion)Ex. ACT-UP (AIDS)
29 Other Membership Organizations Civil Rights and Social Welfare OrganizationsGroups that lobby for civil rights issues (NAACP, NOW, etc.)
30 Nonmembership Organizations Corporations: legally they are considered a ‘person’…but in some cases they act like an interest group.Public Interest Law Firms: an entity unto itself (doesn’t have ‘members’), but they are politically active as well. Involve themselves in judicial cases, etc.
31 Groups: Difficult to Regulate Even though many have become concerned about the activities and influence of interest groups, they are difficult to regulateSunshine laws do not seem to work1. purpose = to open process to greater outside scrutiny2. impacta. public not interestedb. gave groups greater access to decision makers-Stripped away insulation: closed meetingsLimitations on groups are hard to manageLegislative Reorganization Acta. included modest attemptsb. diclosure of activitiesc. register as lobbyists
32 Regulating Group Influence 2. Supreme Court used 1st Amendment to limit scope of the Acta. exempted lobbyists using their own moneyb. exempted lobbyists who could claim another "principal purpose"-e.g. education, information-few do nothing but lobbyc. exempted those who did not contact members' offices directly-e.g., grassroots, fundraising, petitionsBasic problem = we are a society that values access to its elected leadersBut --that isn’t a real problem…unless the groups that use that access are unrepresentative of what the public wants
33 Groups in the Federal System: Traditional View The traditional view of groups and their role in the federal system concerns their interrelationships between 2 other key parts of the governmental system:-committee/subcommittee-bureaucratic agency-interest group
35 Iron Triangle Politics At one corner of the triangle are interest groups (constituencies). These are the powerful interests that buy Congressional votes in their favor and which guarantee re-election for supporting their programs.At another corner sit members of Congress who also seek to align themselves with a constituency for political and electoral support. These congressional members support legislation that advances the interest group's agenda.Occupying the third corner of the triangle are bureaucrats, who are often captured by those they are designed to regulate. The result is a three-way, stable alliance that is sometimes called a ‘subgovernment’ because of its durability, impregnability, and power to determine policy.
36 Iron Triangle Politics Consumers are often left out in the cold by this arrangement. Iron triangles result in the passing of very narrow, "pork barrel" policies that benefit a small segment of the population.The interests of the bureaucracy's constituency are met, while the needs of consumers (which may be the general public) are passed over.This "privatization" of public administration may be viewed as problematic for the popular concept of democracy, insofar as the common welfare of all citizens is sacrificed for very specific interests; effectively subverting the purpose for which the agency was established in the first place.Others maintain that such arrangements are consonant with (and natural outgrowths of) the democratic process, since they frequently involve a majority bloc of voters implementing their will through their representatives in government.
37 Iron Triangles: Problems in Democracy Many people have suggested that numerous policies are made in the U.S. in these tight trianglesNotice how stable they are and how each of the "points" benefits the others and is benefited by themThe preferred position of interest groups in these iron triangles bothers some people:1. the interest groups involved are almost always producer groups2. they are often not counter-balanced by consumer groups3. some fear that this endangers the public interest-tantamount to having Col. Sanders babysit your chicken
38 Interest Group BiasAll of this points up a general fact about interest group democracy --- some interests are better organized than othersWe need to consider why that is so, andHow this organizational bias affects public policy
39 Recall the Free Rider Problem The free rider problem is integral to the formation and organization of groups.Governments do so by the use of compulsory taxation schemesInterest groups do not have such means at their disposal – rely on selective incentivesRecall: defined as benefits that you get only if you join the group
40 Group Formation Biases Upshot = some groups are more likely to form than othersEssentially--those that are best able to identify and deliver selective incentives to their membersSmall, concentrated groups easier to organize than large, diffuse groups-little solidary reward in large groups-harder in a large group to see the impact of your effortsHomogenous groups easier to organize than heterogeneous ones-in homogenous groups, it is easier to develop consensus about what the collective interest is and what it is worth-easier to provide attractive selective incentives to homogenous groups (e.g., NRA versus anti-gun groups)Producer groups more likely to form than consumer groups-producers are fewer in number, more homogenous, more concentrated interest-consumers are greater in number, heterogeneous, diffused interest
41 Some Groups More Equal than Others E. E. Schattschneider has a view similar to Olson's (The Semi-Sovereign People, 1960).Organized groups are not equally representative of all interests in society1. business groups predominateGives group politics a strong upper class bias“The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper class accent”This suggests that we cannot count on groups to balance each other out1. in private disputes, business interests will prevail2. the disorganized, poorly organized will usually loseGovernment's role is to help restore the balance1. government is place where private interests do not always prevail2. place where losers in private battles seek redress3. counter-acts some of the upper class bias of group politics
42 Iron Triangle Reconsidered So let's reconsider the iron trianglesIn recent years, some scholars have begun to suggest that the notion of the iron triangle is too restrictiveToo restrictive - in current environment other forces have become important1. media (investigative journalism)2. dissidents (e.g., Pentagon) - protected by whistle-blowers law3. consumer groups better organized now than before (e.g., Common Cause, Nader, etc.)4. courts have become far more active in the processB. better to think of situation now as an "issue network"1. composed of interested, informed actors2. still favors the organized, but the circle is wider3. generally speaking, the smaller the issue, the more likely producer interests are to dominate
43 Beyond Iron TrianglesThese scholars suggest that there are more actors involved now who upset the coziness of the triangle1. iron rectangles -- now federal courts get into the act-often represent less powerful interests2. issue networks -- broader participationacknowledges that other interest groups have formed to try to offset the producer interests-PIRGs-environmental groups-consumer groupsMedia: harder to keep decisions within the small group