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Interest Groups and American Politics Chapter 11.

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1 Interest Groups and American Politics Chapter 11

2 Proliferation of Interest Groups Four reasons why interest groups are so common in the United States. –The more divisions there are in a society, the greater the variety of interests that will exist. –Our system of government multiplies the number of points at which interest groups can gain access to the government. –Public laws exist that permit certain nonprofit groups to own property without paying taxes on it. –Political parties are weaker, so interest groups can operate directly on the government.

3 Types of nonprofit organizations Section 501 (c) (3) organizations –May legally address political matters, but may not lobby or campaign. –Donations to these are tax deductible. –NOW Foundation Section 501 (c) (4) organizations –Permitted to lobby and campaign –Donations to these are not tax deductible –NOW (half million members with 550 chapters)

4 History of Interest Groups 1770s- Groups for independence 1830s-1840s- religious associations and rise of antislavery movement 1860s- Trade unions, Grange 1880s-1890s- Business associations Early 20 th Century- (Chamber of Commerce, AMA, NAACP, Urban League, American Jewish Committee)

5 History of Interest Groups Roughly 70% of interest groups established their Washington offices after 1960, half after Wave of interest groups in the 1960s led to emergence of environmental, consumer, and political reform organizations

6 Reasons for rise of interest groups Broad economic developments create new interests and redefine old ones Government policy creates interest groups Enthusiastic young organizational entrepreneurs arise at certain times to exercise leadership on certain issues When the government undertakes more activities, more organized groups will become interested in those activities.

7 Types of Interest Groups Institutional Interests –Individuals or organizations that represent other organizations –When groups that make up the organization aren’t diverse, the interest group can carry out clear policies that reflect the interests of its clients. –Chamber of Commerce example Large and diverse membership, so it can only speak out clearly on issues where most businesses take the same position.

8 Types of Interest Groups Membership Interests –Groups like the NRA, NAACP, Sierra Club, AARP –Most people who are sympathetic to these groups do not join. –They will not join unless they get something out of joining.

9 Reasons to join interest groups Incentives- Something of value one cannot get without joining an organization Solidary incentives- social rewards that lead people to join political organizations Material incentives- Money or services that can be valued in monetary terms that lead people to join political organizations. Purposive incentives- A benefit that comes from serving the cause or principle of an organization

10 Ideological interest group vs. public-interest lobby Ideological interest groups –American Conservative Union (ACU) –Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) –Gain members by appealing to ideological principles. Public-interest lobbies –A political organization whose goals will principally benefit nonmembers. –American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) –Nader’s groups –Tend to have largest support when issues are hot. These organizations have a powerful interest to stay in the public eye, otherwise they lose membership and support.

11 Interest Groups and Social Movements Civil Rights in the 1960s Environmental Movement in the 1970s Feminist Movement in many different time periods (1830s, 1890s, 1920s, 1960s) Modern day social movements tend to be more liberal, but in the past this was not always the case.

12 Environmental Movement Sierra Club begins in the 1890s with the conservation movement Wilderness Society and National Wildlife Federation in the 1930s- Conservation Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Action in the 1960s and 1970s.

13 Feminist Movement Three kinds of feminist organizations –Solidary (League of Women Voters) –Purposive (NOW and NARAL) –Caucus- These take on specific issues that have material benefit to women. Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL) National Women’s Political Caucus National Federation of Republican Women

14 Union Movement As the social movement behind labor reform has died out, the organizations that fought for the reforms still remain. Labor Union membership has been falling for sometime (2.2 million decline from ) Only 10% of workers today covered by unions Government workers and teachers still have large numbers in unions, and teachers are still the most significant unions in terms of lobbying.

15 Funds for Interest Groups Foundation grants are a large source of funding, especially for liberal public- interest lobbying groups. Federal Grants and Contracts –Expansions and cutbacks can help and hurt interest groups –Money is not given to support lobbying, but to support projects groups undertake.

16 Federal Grants and Contracts When money is won by a group, it allows them to provide services or create projects that will help support the organization as a whole. This puts organizations in a position to press Congress for policies the group favors, including policies that will give them more grants and contracts. This is why recipients of federal grants and contracts rarely change. (Self-perpetuating cycle)

17 Federal Grants The groups that receive most of federal grants and contracts rarely have to undergo performance audits to see how effectively they are using money. BUSINESSES still receive far more money through federal contracts than nonprofit groups, and large corporations still get the most. Lockheed Martin- biggest federal contractor

18 Direct Mail Unique to the modern interest group To bring in more money than the groups spends on the mailing, usually at least 2 percent of the names on the list must send in money. Tactics used to get money through mailings –Teasers –Emotional Arousal –Celebrity Endorsements –Personalization of the Letter

19 The Problem of Bias with Interest Groups Upper-class Bias –Well-off people are more likely than the poor to join and be active in interest groups –Professional and Business interest groups are more numerous and usually take in more money than other groups. This idea only takes into account inputs. Business-oriented interest groups are often divided among themselves.

20 What is the bias in American politics and interest groups? Most conflicts over policy are conflicts within the upper middle class, or among the political elites Interest groups activity represents the divide among the upper middle class more than anything else. Political resources are extremely important, but they are only clues.

21 Activities of Interest Groups Information –Single most important tactic is supplying credible information –Presenting material in an organized, persuasive, and factual manner. –Having the confidence of legislators is essential for a lobbyists success –Information is most successful on narrow or technical issues. –Political Cues- signals that tell a legislator what values are at stake in a vote, and how the issue fits into his/her political party agenda. –Ratings systems done by interest groups help create public support for legislators. Can be helpful to voters, but are many times biased.

22 Public Support While an insider strategy is still valuable, the outsider strategy is becoming increasingly used by groups. –Grassroots lobbying Lobbyists target undecided or wavering legislators and try to persuade them public opinion on an issue is in one direction. Legislators will sometimes go against public opinion unless it is an issue that could mean losing the next election. “Dirty Dozen” In American politics, no interest group is a lobby that cannot be beaten. The media may portray a group as invincible, but this is rarely, if ever, the case.

23 Money and PACs Money is actually one of the least effective ways for an interest group to influence politicians Two effects of campaign finance law (1973) –Restricted amounts interest groups can give to candidates –Made it legal for corporations and unions to create PACs

24 Money and PACs Both parties have become dependent on PAC money, yet the typical PAC contribution is being spread out over many candidates, and the amount of money any one PAC can give is small Business PACs split money between Democrats and Republicans Influence of money shows up in other ways than votes –Access to legislators

25 The Revolving Door People leaving jobs in the federal government to go work as lobbyists or consultants for private firms and industries. No clear pattern of abuse in this system, but from time to time it does happen.

26 Interest Groups and Trouble Both sides of the political aisle have used disruption, display, even violence to get views across Suffrage, civil rights, some antiwar movements (civil disobedience) are proper ways of using disruption. Creates a no-win situation for politicians –If you ignore the disruption, you are arrogant or insensitive. –If you give in to demonstrators, it encourages more demonstrations. –Call in police and you risk violence and injuries (Bad Publicity)

27 Regulation of Interest Groups Interest Group Activity is protected by the First Amendment 1946 Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act did very little in real effect. In 1995, Congress passed a bill to tighten regulations –Broadened the definition of a lobbyist –Lobbyists are required to report names of clients, income and expenditures, and their issues twice a year –Grassroots organizations are exempted. –No organization for enforcement.


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