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Terms in this set (37)
An organization of people who share common political interests and aim to influence public policy by electioneering and lobbying
involves persuasion—using reports, protests, informal meetings, or other techniques to convince an elected official or bureaucrat to help enact a law, craft a regulation, or do something else that a group wants.
Political party vs. Interest groups
Political parties run candidates for office and coordinate activities of elected officials. While interest groups also electioneer, they do not run candidates.
Major political parties hold certain legal advantages over interest groups when it comes to influencing policy, such as guaranteed positions on electoral ballots.
The elected members of political parties have a direct influence over government activity because they propose, debate, and vote on policies. Interest groups have an indirect influence: they must either persuade elected officials to support their point of view or help elect candidates who already share their goals.
An interest group composed of companies in the same business or industry that lobbies for policies that benefit members of the group.
3 Types of Interest Groups
Economic, Citizen, Single Issue
seek public policies that will provide monetary benefits to their members. Labor organizations fall under this category.
seek change in spending, regulations, or government programs concerning a wide range of policies (also known as public interest groups). Issues of interest may vary from legislation that defines marriage between a man and a woman to the elimination of estate taxes.
form around a narrowly focused goal, seeking change on a single topic, government program, or piece of legislation. For example, the National Right to Life campaign lobbies for regulations on abortion rights.
Interest Groups historically
economic interest groups outnumbered citizen groups and single-issue groups. While the number of all types of interest groups has increased in recent years, the increase in citizen groups has far outpaced the growth in economic groups. This may be attributed to the increased role of the government in citizens' everyday lives.
are interest groups with a headquarters, usually in Washington, DC, as well as members and field offices throughout the country. In general, these groups' lobbying decisions are made at headquarters by the group leaders. Most well-known organizations like the AARP and the NRA are centralized groups.
are interest groups made up of several independent, local organizations that provide much of their funding and hold most of the power.
Centralized vs. Confederations
Both structures have advantages and disadvantages. A centralized organization controls all of the group's resources and can deploy them efficiently, but it can be challenging to find out what members want. A confederation has the advantage of maintaining independent chapters at state and local levels, so it is easier for the national headquarters to learn what members want. Conflict, however, is more rampant in confederations because when chapters send funds to headquarters, they can specify how the funds must be used.
The practice of transitioning from government positions to working for interest groups or lobbying firms or vice versa
an interest group that has a large number of dues-paying individuals as members. Not all mass associations give members a say in selecting a group's leaders or determining its mission.
an interest group whose members are businesses or other organizations rather than individuals.
Interest Group Resources
People-Can write letters to officials, send e-mails, offer advice and expertise. Money. Expertise
Logic of Collective Action
Groups of individuals stand to benefit through the provision of public goods, which for many interest groups amounts to changes in government policy. Securing and providing such goods requires coordination among many different people and organizations—it requires collective action. Even when people generally agree on the desirability of the public good, and when the costs of producing the good are negligible, cooperation is neither easy nor automatic.
In this situation, all participants will be better off if they cooperate or coordinate their behavior, but each individual participant also has an incentive to defect or refuse to cooperate, in hopes of enjoying the benefits of the other participants' efforts without contributing themselves.
refusing to join an organization, and still enjoying the benefits of any success the group might have. But, if everyone acts on this calculation, no one will join the group and the organization will be unable to lobby for grants or anything else.
Common Pool Resources
situations where people can exploit a renewable resource such as a forest or fishery. The problem is that each participant can maximize his/her profits by taking as much as he/she can from the resource area without worrying about whether it can sustain this activity. However, if everyone behaves this way, the common pool resource will be destroyed—all the trees will be cut down, all the fish will be caught.
include the satisfaction derived from the experience of working with like-minded people, even if the group's efforts do not achieve the desired impact.
include the satisfaction derived from the experience of working toward a desired policy goal, even if the goal is not achieved.
a method of eliminating nonparticipation or free riding by requiring participation. For example, workers in certain industries are required to join their respective union.
benefits that can motivate participation in a group effort because they are available only to those who participate, such as member services offered by interest groups.
Interest Group Entreprenuers
play a critical role in successful collective action. They are leaders of an interest group who define the group's mission and its goals and create a plan to achieve them.
are the tactics used within Washington interest groups to achieve their policy goals. Includes direct lobbying, drafting legislation, provinding research, testimony, sue the government.
attempts by interest group staff to influence policy by speaking with elected officials or bureaucrats, is very common. Interest groups try to help like-minded legislators secure policy changes that they both want. Little time is spent trying to convert opposing legislators and bureaucrats, though such efforts are often inexpensive and can force interest groups with opposing views to engage in counteractive lobbying, which requires them to use some of their limited resources to maintain supporters.
the tactics employed outside Washington by interest groups seeking to achieve their policy goals. Includes Grassroots lobbying, astroturf lobbying, taking the late train, media coverage.
is a strategy that relies on participation by group members, such as in a protest or a letter-writing campaign. This strategy is effective because elected officials hate to act against a large group of citizens who care enough about an issue to express their position.
designed to look like the spontaneous, independent participation of many individuals when in fact those individuals' behavior has been coordinated from the top down by some central organization. Astroturf lobbying is often ignored because it says more about a group's ability to make participation accessible rather than the number of people who strongly support an issue.
a tax code classification that makes donations to the group tax deductible but limits the group's political activities (the formal limit is 20 percent of the group's activities or budget).
Political Action Committee
can raise money to contribute to campaigns or to spend on ads in support of specific candidates, but the amount of money a PAC can receive from each of its donors and the amount if can spend on federal campaigning are strictly limited.
Taking the late train
donating money to the winning candidate after the election in hopes of securing a meeting with that person when he or she takes office.
a direct vote by citizens on a policy change proposed by fellow citizens or organized groups outside government. Getting a question on the ballot typically requires collecting a set number of signatures from registered voters in support of the proposal. The initiative process favors well-funded groups that can advertise their proposal, and no mechanism exists for a national-level initiative.
a direct vote by citizens on a policy change proposed by a legislature or another government body. Referenda are common in state and local elections, but no mechanism exists for a national-level referendum.
How much power do interest groups have?
Despite criticism that interest groups have too much influence over political outcomes, scholarly evidence does not support this claim:
Interest groups lobby their friends in government rather than their enemies, and tend to moderate their demands in the face of resistance.
Some complaints about the power of interest groups come from losers in the political process.
Many interest groups claim responsibility for policies and election outcomes regardless of whether their lobbying made the difference.
The sizable amounts that groups spend to lobby Congress can easily overshadow the more important issue of what they got for their money.
When do they suceed
Interest groups are more likely to succeed when their request has low salience, or attracts little public attention. Legislators and bureaucrats do not have to worry about the political consequences of giving a group what it wants if the issue is not well known.
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