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Interest Groups


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Presentation developed for a series of lectures on interest groups for PS 101 American Government at the University of Kentucky, Spring 2007. Dr. Christopher S. Rice, Instructor.

Published in: Business, News & Politics
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Interest Groups

  1. 1. Interest Groups Dr. Christopher S. Rice
  2. 2. Are interest groups generally good for American politics, generally bad for American politics, or does it depend on the group? <ul><li>Interest groups are generally good </li></ul><ul><li>Interest groups are generally bad </li></ul><ul><li>It depends on the group </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t know </li></ul>
  3. 3. What are interest groups? <ul><li>Interest groups - private organizations that try to shape public policy by influencing the behavior of political decision-makers. </li></ul><ul><li>Interest groups serve as important instruments to attain democracy and serve the public interest . </li></ul><ul><li>Pluralists: interest groups an additional tool, NOT necessarily a problem. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Should unions be allowed in all states (i.e., no right to work states)? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe </li></ul><ul><li>No opinion </li></ul>
  5. 5. 3 Types of Interest Groups
  6. 6. Public Interest Groups (citizen groups) <ul><li>Interests that are connected in one way or another to the general welfare of the community </li></ul><ul><li>Primarily non-economic groups motivated by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ideology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the desire to advance a general cause </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>the commitment to some public policy </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. They attract members using solidaristic or purposive incentives
  8. 8. Public Interest Groups <ul><li>Try to get government to do things that will benefit the general public. </li></ul><ul><li>Number of public interest groups has increased markedly since the 1960s. </li></ul>
  9. 10. Private Interest Groups (economic groups) <ul><li>Groups with some tangible stake that they wish to protect or to advance by means of government action. </li></ul><ul><li>Associated with benefits for some fraction of the community. </li></ul>
  10. 11. Primarily based on selective benefits .
  11. 12. Private Interest (economic) groups <ul><li>Producer groups represent enterprises that produce goods or services, such as businesses or agriculture. </li></ul><ul><li>Professional groups represent the interests of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and dentists. </li></ul><ul><li>Unions – primary role has been to protect jobs of members, work for maximum wage & benefit levels. </li></ul>
  12. 13. “ Gray Area” Interest Groups <ul><li>Difficult to place as precisely public or private interest groups. </li></ul><ul><li>Governments </li></ul><ul><li>Think Tanks (research policy groups) </li></ul><ul><li>Issue Networks and Alliances </li></ul><ul><li>“ Astroturf” Groups </li></ul>
  13. 14. Which of the following lobbying techniques do you think is most influential? <ul><li>Making personal contact with policy makers </li></ul><ul><li>Providing information and expertise to policy makers </li></ul><ul><li>Providing expert testimony to be used by policy makers </li></ul><ul><li>Providing legal advice or assistance to policy makers </li></ul>
  14. 15. What Interest Groups Do the “ inside ” and “ outside ” games
  15. 16. The Inside Game <ul><li>aka , “old-breed lobbying”. </li></ul><ul><li>Direct contact of interest group representative, government officials. </li></ul><ul><li>Does not involve bribery. It’s the politics of insiders, the “good old boy” network, “one on one” persuasion. </li></ul><ul><li>Access, genuine understanding of “the game” critical to success. </li></ul>
  16. 17. The inside game is most effective when the issues: <ul><li>are narrow and technical; </li></ul><ul><li>do not command much media or public attention; </li></ul><ul><li>do not stir up counteractivity by other interest groups. </li></ul>
  17. 19. Should politicians disclose all contacts by lobbying groups to the public? <ul><li>Should disclose </li></ul><ul><li>Should not disclose </li></ul><ul><li>Somewhat </li></ul><ul><li>No opinion </li></ul>
  18. 20. Inside Game: Lobbying Congress <ul><li>The skilled lobbyist cultivates personal contacts, relationships with key members, staff of committees & subcommittees. </li></ul><ul><li>Access may be gained if interest group has made significant contribution to the campaign. </li></ul><ul><li>Interest group representatives offer testimony at public committee, subcommittee hearings. </li></ul>
  19. 21. Inside Game: Lobbying Executive Branch <ul><li>Career civil servants, upper-level appointees have considerable discretionary authority. </li></ul><ul><li>Key to success? Personal contact, long-term relationships. </li></ul><ul><li>Interest group representatives can provide valuable services to bureaucracy. </li></ul><ul><li>Implied understandings about postcareer service benefits common. </li></ul>
  20. 22. The Outside Game <ul><li>aka , “new-breed lobbying.” </li></ul><ul><li>Efforts to mobilize public opinion, voters, and important contributors in order to bring pressure on elected officials. </li></ul>
  21. 23. Tools of the Outside Game <ul><li>Mobilizing Membership </li></ul><ul><li>Organizing the District </li></ul><ul><li>Shaping Opinion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Publication of Research results </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advertising </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maintaining working relationships with the media </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political Action Committees </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogging and Web 2.0 activism </li></ul></ul>
  22. 24. Do you think interest groups wield too much power, not enough power, or the right amount of power in our political system? <ul><li>Too much power </li></ul><ul><li>The right amount of power </li></ul><ul><li>Not enough power </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t know </li></ul>
  23. 25. Interest Group System & Democracy
  24. 26. Inequalities in the Interest Group System <ul><li>Representational </li></ul><ul><li>Resource </li></ul><ul><li>Access </li></ul>
  25. 27. Interest Group System & Democracy <ul><li>Representational Inequalities - involves the question of WHOM interest groups represent. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Business, trade, professional associations = 2/3 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Representational advantage of business, professions increasing. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business, professional groups have more permanency </li></ul></ul>
  26. 28. Interest Group System & Democracy <ul><li>Resource inequalities – interest groups representing business corporations and the professions represent a substantial resource advantage over others. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can afford to spend far more than other groups. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>THE major participants in PAC fundraising and spending. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Providers of Soft Money. </li></ul></ul>
  27. 30. Do you think many public officials make or change policy decisions on the basis of money they receive from campaign contributors? <ul><li>Yes </li></ul><ul><li>No </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t know </li></ul>
  28. 31. Interest Group System & Democracy <ul><li>Interest groups have SOME expectation of ROI on contributions. </li></ul><ul><li>It is NOT really a case of “Prove it!” </li></ul><ul><li>Do interest groups neutralize each other? </li></ul>
  29. 32. Interest Group System & Democracy <ul><li>Access inequality – inequalities of representation and resources are accentuated by the ability of some groups to form relatively stable alliances with government institutions and decision-makers. </li></ul>
  30. 33. Interest Group System & Democracy <ul><li>Capture - tendency for regulatory agencies to become allies, protectors, & advocates of the industries that they were intended to regulate. </li></ul><ul><li>Interest Group Liberalism (Lowi) - political system in which interest groups help formulate and carry out government policies. </li></ul>
  31. 34. Interest Group System & Democracy <ul><li>Iron Triangles - A three-way arrangement in which an alliance is formed between a private interest group, a bureaucratic agency, and a Congressional committee or subcommittee. </li></ul>