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By Loren Miller A striking feature of American politics is the extent to which political parties are supplemented by private associations formed to influence.

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Presentation on theme: "By Loren Miller A striking feature of American politics is the extent to which political parties are supplemented by private associations formed to influence."— Presentation transcript:


2 By Loren Miller

3 A striking feature of American politics is the extent to which political parties are supplemented by private associations formed to influence public policy. These organizations... promote their interests by attempting to influence government rather than by nominating candidates.... Such groups, while they may call themselves non- political, are engaged in politics; in the main theirs is a politics of policy. V.O. Key, 1964

4 Interest Groups Since 1964 the role of interest groups has been drastically altered. Although they continue to play an important role in all aspects of the policymaking process, organized interest groups play a central role in the electoral process as well.

5 Interest Groups Political interest groups pursue two general objectives: 1. They seek new positive benefits to promote the group’s interest. 2. They defend current benefits to protect the group’s interest.

6 Theories of Interest Group Politics Do Interest Groups Create Problems? -- Pluralism argues that interest group activity brings representation to all -- Elitism argues that a few groups (primarily the wealthy) have most of the power -- Hyperpluralism asserts that too many groups are getting too much of what they want, resulting in government policy that is often contradictory

7 Theories of Interest Group Politics Pluralism: -- the belief that democracy can be achieved in a large, complex society by competition, bargaining and compromise among organized groups and that individuals can participate in decision making through membership in these groups and by choosing among parties and candidates in elections -- pluralists are generally optimistic that the public interest will eventually prevail in the making of public policy -- the group becomes the essential bridge between the individual and the government -- public policy is the equilibrium reached in the group struggle Influence of Group AInfluence of Group B

8 Pluralism: Government Citizens Interest Groups Vote for Government Officials Belong to Try to Influence

9 Theories of Interest Group Politics Hyperpluralism: -- the belief there are too many competing groups and that these group are so strong that government is weakened -- too many groups make it impossible for the government to act -- when politicians try to appease every group the result is confusing, contradictory and muddled policy

10 THE IRON TRIANGLE Bureaucracy Department of Veterans Affairs Congressional Committees House Committee on Veterans Affairs Interest Groups American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War Info about veteran’s needs Legislation affecting veteran’s benefits Approve higher budget requests Information Help with constituent complaints Rulings on veteran’s issues Information about veterans Support for agencies budget request Campaign Contributions Goal is to protect their self-interest

11 Theories of Interest Group Politics Elitism: -- a political system in which power is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small group of individuals or institutions -- elites contend that our society, like all societies, is divided along class lines and that an upper- class elite pulls the strings of government -- public policy does not reflect the “demands” of the people so much as it does the interests of elites -- changes in public policy come about as a result of redefinition by elites of their own values Do elites tend to be liberal or conservative? Do elites desire incremental or revolutionary change?

12 Perception of Interest Groups Is the government run by a few big interests looking out for themselves or is it run for the benefit of the people?

13 Why Join an Interest Group? Americans form associations for various reasons: -- camaraderie -- education -- charitable work -- economic advancement

14 Political Involvement? As leaders of an organization see that their group’s interest is affected by governmental action, they must make an important decision regarding whether they would like to play a more active political role. If they decide to become politically involved, they take on a new status. -- if they decide to lobby Congress for legislation, they must register as a lobbying organization. -- if they decide to directly support candidates for office, they must form a separate political action committee (PAC)

15 Political Action Committees (PACs) Tillman Act (1907) – prohibited corporate campaign contributions Corrupt Practices Campaign Act (1925) – set limits on expenditures for house and senate campaigns Hatch Acts (1939 & 1940) – set limits on contributions and involvement of federal employees Taft-Hartley Act (1947) – prohibited labor unions from contributing directly to campaigns These laws were easily circumvented and ignored.


17 Political Action Committees (PACs) The reality of campaign financing entering the 1970s revealed a picture of significantly increasing expenditures, corporate influence, and union activity, all sidestepping the intent, if not the letter, of the law. The Federal Election Campaign Act (1971) and Amendments (1974): -- limited individual contributions but permitted the establishment of political action committees -- political action committees were for the “establishment, administration, and solicitation of contributions to a separate, segregated fund” Veterans for a Strong America anti-Obama ad

18 527 Organization A tax exempt group formed primarily to influence elections through voter mobilization efforts and issue ads that do not directly endorse or oppose a candidate. Unlike Political Action Committees, 527s are not subject to contribution limits and spending caps. In 2012, federally focused 527 organizations spent more than $300 million. 527 anti-McCain ad

19 Top Ten PACs in Contributions to Federal Candidates 2012 1. National Association of RealtorsMixed2.8 million 2.National Beer Wholesalers Ass’nMixed2.7 million 3.Honeywell InternationalRep.2.6 million 4.Operating Engineers UnionDem.2.5 million 5.International Brotherhood of Electrical WorkersDem.2.3 million 6.American Ass’n of JusticeDem.2.3 million 7.AT&TRep.2.3 million 8.American Bankers Ass’nRep.2.2 million 9.Plumbers/Pipefitters UnionDem.2.0 million 10.Northrop GrummanRep.1.9 million

20 Top Ten 527 Organizations in Contributions 2012 1. ActBlueDem.11.6 million 2.College Republican Nat’l Comm. Rep.9.2 million 3.Citizens UnitedRep.8.1 million 4.EMILY’s ListDem.7.7 million 5.Service Employees UnionDem.6.2 million 6.Plumbers/Pipefitters UnionDem.4.7 million 7.Gay and Lesbian Victory FundDem.3.8 million 8.GOPACRep.3.3 million 9.New Conservative CoalitionRep.3.0 million 10.Int’l Brotherhood of Electrical WorkersDem.2.8 million

21 Top Spenders on Lobbying Activities, 2011 1. U.S. Chamber of Commerce 66.4 million 2.General Electric 26.3 million 3.National Association of Realtors 22.3 million 4.American Medical Association 21.5 million 5.Blue Cross/Blue Shield 21.0 million 6.Conoco/Phillips 20.6 million 7.American Hospital Association 20.5 million 8.AT&T 20.2 million 9.Comcast 19.3 million 10.Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America 18.9 million 11. National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. 18.5 million 12.Boeing Co. 16.0 million 13.Verizon Communications 15.5 million 14. AARP 15.2 million 15.Lockheed Martin 15.2 million AARP

22 Top Spenders by Industry, 2013 1. Health (pharmaceuticals/health products) 226.2 million 2.Insurance 152.2 million 3.Oil and Gas 144.9 million 4.Computers/Internet 141.2 million 5.Electric Utilities 129.9 millio

23 Who Gives? 2010 Millions

24 Ethics Reform?? The Daily Show

25 Lobbying The term “lobbying” comes from the place where petitioners used to collar legislators. -- you “hung out” waiting for a legislator to appear Lobbyists are political persuaders who represent organized groups. -- many lobbyists are former legislators (is this a problem?) There are two basic types of lobbyists: -- a regular, paid employee of a corporation, union, or association -- people who are available for hire on a temporary basis

26 Lobbying In addition to trying to influence legislators: -- they are important sources of information -- they can help politicians with political strategy for getting legislation through (or blocking it) -- they can help formulate campaign strategy and get the group’s members behind politician’s reelection campaign -- they are a source of ideas and innovations

27 Lobbying (Inside DC) Direct Lobbying: when interest groups meet with officeholders or bureaucrats asking government to change policy in line with the groups goals. -- generally aimed at individuals who share the same goals -- groups place a high priority on maintaining access to their lobbying targets Drafting Legislation: many interest groups draft legislation for members of Congress to introduce. Research: interest groups prepare research reports which may help sway public opinion, help persuade elected officials or bureaucrats, or help claim expertise on some aspect of public policy. Hearings: staff often testify before congressional hearings NRANRA

28 Lobbying (Outside DC) Grassroots Lobbying: directly having interest group members lobby for their group. -- send letters, make telephone calls, or participate in a protest -- AARP provides pre-written emails and faxes along with addresses so that members can express the groups positions on various proposals Protect Medicare and Stop Proposals to Cut Social Social Security Security and Veterans Benefits

29 Lobby Group Registrations, 2011 Total = 23,677

30 Spending on Lobbying, 2011 Total = $3.28 billion

31 Electioneering Aiding candidates financially and getting group members out to support them. A means for groups to participate in electioneering is provided by political action committees. -- no major interest group seeking to exert influence on the political process can pass up the opportunity to funnel money honestly and openly into the campaign coffers of its supporters. -- nearly half of the candidates running for reelection to the House of Representatives have received the majority of their campaign funds from PACs.





36 Electioneering In addition to their role in financing campaigns, interest groups participate in numerous other ways. -- recruiting interest group members to run for office -- issuing official group endorsements -- providing volunteer labor to participate in campaign work -- sending delegates to state and national party conventions to influence the party platforms

37 Super PACs Super PACs came into existence in 2010 when federal court decisions found that limitations on both corporate and individual contributions is an unconstitutional violation of the 1 st Amendment. -- a PAC that is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, individuals and associations -- the most important difference between a PAC and a Super PAC is in who can contribute and in how much they can give -- candidates can accept up to 5K per election from a PAC; they cannot accept money from corporations, unions and associations -- for Super PACs there is no limit on who contributes or how much they can contribute but they cannot work in conjunction with the candidate they are supporting Romney Super PAC ad


39 Impact of Citizens United v. FEC (2010)



42 The Top Super PAC Spenders in 2012 (Millions) Republican Democrat

43 Types of Organizations Type of OrganizationAdvantagesDisadvantages 501 Contributions are Cannot engage in political tax deductible activities or lobbying, only voter education and mobilization 527 Can spend unlimited amounts on Cannot make contributions to issue advocacy and voter mobilization candidates or coordinate efforts with candidates or parties PACs Can contribute directly to Strict limits on candidates and parties direct contributions Super PACs Can spend unlimited amounts on Cannot make contributions electioneering, can support or to candidates or coordinate oppose specific candidates efforts with candidates or parties

44 Litigation If interest groups fail in Congress, the next step is to go to court in hope of getting specific rulings: -- environmental legislation allows for private citizens to sue for enforcement -- civil rights legislation in the 1950s was blocked in Congress, so groups went to the courts -- Amicus Curiae briefs -- Class Action Lawsuits

45 Creating Public Pressure Protest Demonstrations -- Tea Party movement; immigration reform; gay marriage Political Violence -- animal rights groups like the Animal Liberation Front; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

46 Types of Groups Some groups are organized for a single-purpose while others lobby on a whole range of issues. Single-Issue Groups: -- Women’s Suffrage Association -- National Pro-life Alliance -- Pro-choice America Multi-Purpose Groups: -- the League of Women Voters -- American Association of University Women -- National Organization of Women (NOW) -- Business and Professional Women’s Association

47 Types of Groups Business Groups -- the most numerous and most potent of America’s interest groups -- concerned with labor laws, tax laws, interest rates, environmental regulation, trade policies, and government contracts -- oil companies favor off-shore drilling but worry about environmental regulations -- banks are concerned with financial regulatory reform -- Chamber of Commerce -- National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Professional Associations -- doctors, lawyers, realtors and other professionals form associations to advance their interests -- AMA is concerned with limiting the amount of money that a judge can award in medical malpractice law suits; ABA is opposed to this

48 Types of Groups Labor Unions -- not as important a political force as they used to be -- in 1970, more than 25% of the labor force belonged to a union; today it is less than 12% -- right to work laws inhibit union organizing -- some employers aggressively resist union organizing (Wal-Mart) -- largest union is the AFL-CIO -- other large unions are American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Teamsters Union, the United Mine Workers Union, and the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) -- favor government policies that make it easier for unions to organize; increase in the minimum wage; better working conditions

49 Types of Groups Agricultural Groups -- influential on farm issues at the national level and in state legislatures in farming states -- largest unions are the American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union -- there are also associations representing specific farm interests (e.g., National Milk Producers Union) -- desire government loan guarantees, crop subsidies, and the promotion of farm exports) Racial and Ethnic Minority Rights Groups -- most ethnic minority groups have formed their own interest group -- NAACP; LULAC; AIM (American Indian Movement) -- desire equality before the law; representation in electiver and appointive office; freedom from discrimination; economic advancement

50 Types of Groups Citizen Groups -- organizations created to support governmental policies that they believe will benefit the public at-large -- Common Cause; Sierra Club; ACLU Advocacy Groups -- organizations created to seek benefits of behalf of groups who are in some way incapacitated or otherwise unable to represent their own interests -- Alzheimer’s Association; Children’s Defense Fund; American Cancer Society Cause Groups -- organizations whose members care intensely about a single issue or small group of related issues -- AARP; NOW; National Right to Life Committee; Pro- Choice America

51 Numbers and Types of Groups

52 Groups Rate Officeholders Candidates for office often use interest group’s ratings to show voters how “good” they are: -- Americans for Democratic Action (Liberal) -- use a series of votes on both domestic and foreign policy issuesAmericans for Democratic Action (Liberal) -- American Conservative Union (Conservative)American Conservative Union (Conservative) -- use a sophisticated system to show how frequently members vote “for safeguarding the God-given rights of the individual” As expected, a high score from one group is likely to be matched by a low score from the other group. This pushes officeholders to hold ideologically extreme positions.

53 Interest Group Ratings (%)

54 Groups Rate Officeholders Other groups, single-issue and multi-purpose also rate officeholders: -- League of Conservation VotersLeague of Conservation Voters -- environmental concerns -- AFL-CIOAFL-CIO -- concerns of labor unions -- Chamber of CommerceChamber of Commerce -- concerns of business -- Christian CoalitionChristian Coalition -- conservative religious values

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