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Interest Groups and Political Parties

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1 Interest Groups and Political Parties
Chapter 7 Interest Groups and Political Parties

2 Interest Groups and Democracy
Why should we care about interest groups? Are interest groups servants or destroyers of democracy? Whose interests are served? Who is and is not represented by an interest group? Do interest groups have too much, too little, or just enough power/influence over decision-makers?

3 What is an Interest Group?
Organized group of individuals Who share common goals or objectives Attempt to influence government policy/policymakers in all three branches of government at every level (national, state, local) Not a political party, which is a group of activists who organize to win elections, operate the government/hold office, and determine public policy The heart of pluralist theory Lobbyist = an individual who attempts to influence policy

4 Why Do People Join Interest Groups?
Solidary incentives – associate with others who share a common interest Material incentives – seeking economic benefits/opportunities Purposive incentives – ethical beliefs or ideological principles

5 Interest Groups and You
Can you name an interest group? What are its goals? Do you belong to an interest group? What is its name and why did you join?

6 Types of Interest Groups
Economic = by far the most powerful, the most influential Environmental Public Interest Special Interest

7 Characteristics of Interest Groups
© 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™ Characteristics of Interest Groups

8 Economic Interest Groups
Business = Business and trade organizations that attempt to influence government policy to their benefit Agricultural = Advocate for farm interests; very influential Labor = Groups that represent working class interests Public Employee = Groups that represent government employees (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFSCME) and teachers Professional Associations = Groups that advocate for professional associations (American Bar Association, American Medical Association)

9 Declining Union Membership
© 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™

10 So What? What does declining union membership mean for the power of labor to defend worker’s rights? How does this impact the power of labor relative to business interests?

11 Environmental Interests
Advocates for pro-environmental policies National Wildlife Federation Nature Conservancy World Wildlife Fund Sierra Club National Audubon Society

12 Public & Special Interest Groups
Public Interest Groups – advocates for collective, community interests (Examples: Consumer advocacy groups; Common Cause; CALPIRG) Single Interest Groups – narrow focus (Examples: abortion groups; racial/ethnic or age associations) Foreign Governments

13 What Makes an Interest Group Powerful?
Size (numbers) Resources (organization and money) Leadership Cohesiveness

14 Interest Group Strategies
Direct Techniques Lobbying = meeting officials and attempting to convince them to support your position testifying before congressional committees testifying before executive rulemaking agencies assisting in the drafting of legislation entertaining legislators providing information to legislators = one of the most important ways lobbyists make themselves valuable to decision makers assisting in nominating individuals to government posts

15 Interest Group Strategies (cont.)
Ratings = scoring legislators based on their votes in Congress, then making interested constituents aware of those scores Campaign Assistance = providing workers for political campaigns Political Action Committees (PACs)= a committee that raises money and gives donations on behalf of organizations to political candidates or political parties Political Contributions = the most important form of campaign help from interest groups over the last 20 years

16 Interest Group Strategies
Indirect Techniques Generating public pressure = trying to influence the government by using public opinion on an issue Climate control = public relations techniques used to create favorable public opinion Using Constituents as Lobbyists Shotgun approach = having large numbers of constituents act in concert by writing, ing, phoning or sending postcards to a legislator Rifle approach = having an influential constituent contact a legislator on a particular issue

17 Interest Groups and Campaign Money
Political Action Committee (PAC) = group that represents a business, labor union, or special interest group; currently there are more corporate PACs than any other type PAC contributions Primarily given to incumbents $5,000 per election per candidate is upper limit under campaign finance laws Soft money (money going to parties versus particular candidates) Outlawed in 2002 Issue advocacy advertising

18  PAC Growth, 1977 to Present SOURCE: Federal Election Commission, 2001

19 PAC Contributions to Congressional Candidates, 1986 to 2000
Millions of Dollars SOURCE: Federal Election Commission, 2002

20 © 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™
Top 20 in

21 Business-Labor split © 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™

22 Why contribute to campaigns?
Why do PACs contribute to political campaigns? Why do PACs contribute so much more to incumbents? Why do PACs contribute to both parties at once?

23 Regulating Lobbyists Provided for public disclosure
Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 Provided for public disclosure Failed due to lack of enforcement mechanism United States v. Harriss (1954) confirmed its constitutionality

24 Regulating Lobbyists, (cont.)
reforms “Lobbyist” = anyone who spends 20 percent of his/her time lobbying members of Congress, congressional staffs, or executive branch officials Requires lobbyists to register with the Secretary of the House or clerk of the Senate Requires semiannual reports on the nature of lobbying activities

25 Discussion Why are interest groups important in US politics?
In what ways do interest groups support democracy? In what ways might they subvert it? Are some interest groups too powerful? Should lobbyists be more closely regulated? How might this be done without violating civil liberties?

26 What is a Political Party?
A group of activists who organize to win elections, operate government, and make public policy Distinct from interest groups, which don’t seek office

27 Functions of Political Parties in the U.S.
Recruiting candidates for public office Organizing and running elections Presenting alternative policies to the electorate Accepting responsibility for operating government Organized opposition to the party in power

28 Parties in U.S. History 1789-1812 – Creation of parties
– Personal politics – National two-party rule – Post-Civil War period – Progressive era 1932-present – Modern era


30 Structure of the American Political Party
National Party Organization National Convention (including a national chairperson and a national committee) State Party Organization State Conventions and Committees County Committees Precinct and Ward Organizations (including active, paid, and unpaid workers) Party Members (those who vote the party ticket) Local Party Organization

31 Our Two-Party System Two-Party system = a political system where two parties have a reasonable chance of winning “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the…” Other parties: Green, Reform, Libertarian, Socialist Workers, Communist, Socialist, States Rights Democrats/Workers World, Natural Law, and Social Labor Party

32 The Three Faces of Party
Party-in-the-electorate = members of the general public who identify with a political party or who express a preference for one party over the other Party organization = formal structure and leadership of a political party, including election committees; local, state and national executives; and paid professional staff Party-in-government = elected and appointed officials who identify with a political party

33 Core Supporters Democratic core Republican core
lower SES (income, education) groups; African Americans; union members; Jews; individuals with less than high school education; college grads with a postgraduate education; women Republican core higher SES groups; college grads with no postgraduate education; professionals; businesspeople

34 Democrats and Republicans
Democrats = More likely to approve social-welfare spending, government regulation of business, measures to improve status of minorities and elderly Republicans = More supportive of private enterprise; believe federal government should be less involved in social programs

35 Which Party Is Better? © 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™

36 Why Two-Party System Endures
Historical foundations = sectional/regional and class politics Dichotomous nature of early American conflict Political socialization and party identification Commonality of views among Americans Winner-take-all electoral system plurality voting in single member district elections State and federal laws favoring two party system

37 Party Identification © 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™

38 Minor Parties in the U.S. Most successful have been splinter parties that broke from a major party Bull Moose Progressives (from Republicans) Dixiecrats (States Rights) Party (from Democrats) American Independent Party 1968 (from Democrats)

39 Minor Parties in the U.S., (cont.)
Minor parties’ platforms often adopted by major parties Sometimes minor party candidates can have an impact on the outcome of an election Nader and Gore in 2000 Roosevelt and Taft in 1912

40 Minor Parties in the U.S., (cont.)
Current minor parties: Libertarian Party Reform Party Green Party Natural Law Party Other parties (Communist, Socialist, Socialist Workers, etc.) are really “minute,” too small to be minor

41 Discussion How do political parties link citizens to government?
Can you imagine democracy without parties? Why has party identification declined? Is the two-party system undemocratic? Would American politics be different if proportional representation were used? Would it be more democratic? Would it be less stable?

42 Hot Links to Selected Internet Resources
Book’s Companion Site: Wadsworth’s Political Science Site: The Internet Public Library: Democratic National Committee: Republican National Committee:

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