Interest Groups st The 1 Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Role of Interest Groups • Interest Group: • An organization of people who enter the political process to try to achieve their shared goals by putting pressure for change on elected officials and policy makers • Exist at all levels of government. They usually have narrow selfinterests. Not Political Parties • Interest groups are different from parties. • Political parties fight election battles; interest groups do not run their own slate of candidates for office; they simply support candidates for office. • Interest groups are policy specialists (focus on one area); political parties are policy generalists (broad spectrum of policies). Interest Group Explosion Why? • 1959 – 2001: # of interest groups from 6,000 to 22,000. • Technology has made the creation of interest groups easier through mass communication. • Economic Interests • Government Policy • Strong Leadership Types of Interest Groups • I. ECONOMIC INTERESTS: concerned more with profits, prices and wages. • #1 Labor Groups • AFL-CIO largest labor union today • #2 Agriculture • Import quotas, price supports (subsidies) • National Milk Producers Federation • #3 Professional Groups • represent various occupations; policies that affect their professions • American Medical Association; National Education Association • #4 Business: large and small corporations • Ex. Chamber of Commerce is world’s largest; Pharmaceutical lobby is very powerful. Types of Interest Groups • II. CONSUMER/PUBLIC INTERESTS: seek a collective good with benefits for everyone • promote public good/consumer rights • 1960s: Ralph Nader = icon • Common Cause (electoral reform) • III. ENVIRONMENTAL INTERESTS: oppose offshore oil drilling, nuclear power plants etc. • Sierra Club • IV. EQUALITY & JUSTICE INTERESTS: particularly for women and minorities • NAACP (Oldest and largest) • ACLU • NOW = National Organization for Women Single Issue Groups • SINGLE ISSUE GROUPS • Focus efforts on one issue • i.e. National Right to Life v. Planned Parenthood • National Rifle Association (NRA) best known today. Power Rankings? Powerful Interest Groups 1. American Association of Retired People (AARP) 2. American Israel Public Affairs Committee 3. AFL-CIO 4. National Federation of Independent Business 5. American Association for Justice 6. National Rifle Association 7. Christian Coalition 8. American Medical Association 9. National Education Association of the U.S. 10. National Right to Life Committee A Nation of Joiners… Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1830’s that, “Americans of all ages and all dispositions constantly form associations.” Why Join an Interest Group? • Solidary Incentives – pleasure, status, or companionship that arises out of meeting in small groups. Requires organization. • Purposive Incentives – the appeal of the group’s stated goals • Material Incentives – money, services, discounts, etc. Selective Benefits Solution: • Offer selective benefits – goods such as travel and insurance discounts) to only the group that pays annual dues. • AARP has built up a membership of over 33 million by offering selective benefits! Olson’s Law… • Small groups are easier to organize than large groups. • Large groups tends to have a more serious free rider problem. • Sitting back and let other people do the work and still enjoy the “collective good.” • Ex. AFL-CIO wins a higher minimum wage, all low paid workers benefit regardless of whether or not they are members of the union. Kinds of Interest Groups • Institutional Interests - Individuals or organizations that represent other organizations. • Membership Interests - Organizations supported by the activities and contributions of individual citizens. INTEREST GROUP GOALS… • Three Fundamental Goals 1. Gain access to policymakers. 2. Influence public policy. 3. Support sympathetic policymakers. How Interest Groups Work Interest groups generally employ four strategies for accomplishing their goals: • I. Lobbying • II. Electioneering • III. Litigation • IV. Appealing to the public How Groups Try to Shape Policy I. LOBBYING: Communication by someone other than a citizen acting on his own behalf, directed to a governmental decision-maker with the hope of influencing his/her decision. • Two basic types of lobbyists: • Regular, paid employees of a group; former legislators typically make the best lobbyists (Revolving Door). • 40% of retired Congressmen registered as lobbyists. • Temporary hires – “lobbyists for hire” (thousands in Washington). How Groups Try to Shape Policy • Lobbyists: are a source of information (specialized expertise) help politicians plan political strategies for legislation (act as “coach” in presenting proposals) help politicians plan political strategies for reelection campaigns are a source of ideas and innovations • Much evidence suggests that lobbyists’ power over policy is often exaggerated; more effective as information sources; basically reinforces and strengthens support. How Interest Groups Work Interest groups generally employ four strategies for accomplishing their goals: • I. Lobbying • II. Electioneering • III. Litigation • IV. Appealing to the public II. ELECTIONEERING: helping candidates financially and getting group members out to support them Since lobbying works best with those already on the same side, getting the right people into office and keeping them there is a key strategy of interest groups. ELECTIONEERING (cont.) PACs: Political arms of interest groups, legally entitled to raise voluntary funds to contribute to favored candidates or political parties. • About ½ of members of the House of Representatives get the majority of their campaign $ from PACs. • PACs overwhelmingly support incumbents. • Although, may play it safe by contributing to the challenger as well… III. LITIGATION • If an interest group fails in one arena, the courts may be able to provide a remedy. • 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 IV. APPEAL TO THE 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. • Grassroots Lobbying. Hyperpluralist Critique… Groups have become too powerful as the government tries to appease every interest (Interest Group Liberalism). Interest group liberalism is aggravated by numerous iron triangles (comfortable relationships) What is an Iron Triangle? • Sub-governments (Iron Triangles) • An alliance formed by Congress, bureaucrats and interest groups to make public policy in the group’s domain. • In the end, all parties benefit from the relationship: Congress receives campaign contributions, interest groups get favorable legislation and bureaucracies preserve their jobs and status.