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Interest Groups. The Role of Interest Groups Interest group: an organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several.

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Presentation on theme: "Interest Groups. The Role of Interest Groups Interest group: an organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several."— Presentation transcript:

1 Interest Groups

2 The Role of Interest Groups Interest group: an organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals Interest groups pursue their goals in many arenas. Interest groups distinguishable from parties.

3 Theories of Interest Group Politics Pluralism Groups provide a link between the people and the government. Groups compete and no one group will become too dominant. Groups play by “rules the game.” Groups weak in one resource may use another. Lobbying is open to all groups.

4 Theories of Interest Group Politics Elitism Groups are unequal in power. Awesome power is held by the largest corporations. Power of a few is fortified by interlocking directorates. Other groups win minor policy battles, but corporate elites win the big decisions.

5 Theories of Interest Group Politics - Elitism

6 Theories of Interest Group Politics Hyperpluralism Groups have become too powerful as government tries to appease every conceivable interest. Interest group liberalism is aggravated by numerous “iron triangles.” Trying to please every group results in contradictory and confusing policy.


8 How Groups Try to Shape Policy Lobbying Litigation Going Public Electioneering

9 Lobbying Communication to a governmental decision maker with the hope of influencing his or her decision. Lobbyists are (1) a source of information; (2) helping to get legislation passed; (3) helping to formulate campaign strategy; and (4) a source of ideas and innovations.

10 1946: Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act 1995: Lobbying Disclosure Act


12 Litigation Interest groups can file amicus curiae briefs to influence a court’s decision. amicus curiae: briefs submitted by a “friend of the court” to raise additional points of view and present information not contained in the briefs of the formal parties Class Action lawsuits permit a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similar situated.

13 Going Public Because public opinion makes its way to policymakers, groups try to: cultivate a good public image to build a reservoir of goodwill with the public use marketing strategies to influence public opinion of the group and its issues advertise to motivate and inform the public about an issue NRA commercial against 2013 gun law

14 Electioneering Direct group involvement in the election process Groups can help fund campaigns, provide testimony, and get members to work for candidates; some form PACs. Political Action Committee (PAC): Political funding vehicles created by 1974 campaign finance reforms, PACs are used by interest groups to donate money to candidates.

15 Federal Election Campaign Act (1974) Created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to administer campaign finance laws for federal elections Required full disclosure and limited contributions This was a response to the Watergate scandal.

16 The Proliferation of PACs Political Action Committees (PACs): created by law in 1974 to allow corporations, labor unions and other interest groups to donate money to campaigns; PACs are registered with and monitored by the FEC. There are thousands of PACs operating today. PACs donate to candidates who support their issue.

17 In 1976 the Supreme Court ruled that spending limits established by the FECA Amendments of 1974 were unconstitutional, ruling that those restrictions violated the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of expression. Also ruled that the FECA ban on self-financed campaigns was unconstitutional. Political Spending = Political Speech Buckley vs. Valeo (1976)

18 The Maze of Campaign Finance Reforms Soft Money: political contributions (not subject to contribution limits) earmarked for party-building expenses or generic party advertising The McCain-Feingold Act (2002) banned soft money, increased amount of individual contributions, and limited “issue ads.”

19 Citizens United vs. FEC (2010) A landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. The nonprofit corporation Citizens United wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts in violation of the McCain–Feingold Act. In a 5–4 decision, the Court held that portions of the law violated the First Amendment. Citizens United Trailer

20 “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” “The Court’s opinion is a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.” Justice Kennedy, for the majority Justice Stevens, in dissent


22 Types of Interest Groups Economic Interests – Labor – Agriculture – Business Environmental Interests Equality Interests Consumer and Public Interest Lobbies




26 Understanding Interest Groups Interest Groups and Democracy – James Madison’s solution to the problems posed by interest groups was to create a wide-open system in which groups compete. – Pluralists believe that the public interest would prevail from this competition. – Elite theorists point to the proliferation of business PACs as evidence of interest group corruption. – Hyperpluralists maintain that group influence has led to policy gridlock.

27 For more on the legal structure of interest groups, see Election/Campaign Finance Law informational sheet.

28 See research project, Interest Groups in America

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