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501(c)(3) organizations

Tax-exempt groups that are prohibited from lobbying or campaigning for a party or candidate.

amicus curiae briefs

Briefs filed by outside parties ("friends of the court") who have an interest in the outcome of a case.

citizens' groups

Groups that form to draw attention to purely public issues that affect all citizens equally.

economic interest group

Group formed to advance the economic status of its members.


View of democratic society in which a select few interest groups shape policies in favor of a small group of wealthy or powerful citizens.

expressive benefits

Benefits to interest group members of having a specific opinion expressed in the larger social or political sphere.


Defined my Madison as any group that places its own interests above the aggregate interests of society.

foreign policy groups

Groups founded to create support for favorable U.S. policies toward one or several foreign countries.

free rider problem

Problem faced by interest groups when a collective benefit they provide is so widespread and diffuse that members and nonmembers alike receive it, reducing the incentive for joining the group.

grassroots movement

Group that forms in response to an economic or political event but does not focus on only one issue.

green card

Permanent resident card issued to eligible immigrants.

ideological interest groups

Groups that form among citizens with the same benefits about a specific issue.

interest group

Group of citizens who share a common interest - a political opinion, a religious or ideological belief, a social goal, or an economic characteristic - and try to influence public policy to benefit themselves.

interest group entrepreneurs

Individuals who expend their own time, energy, and resources to form an interest group.

iron law of oligarchy

Theory that leader in any organization eventually behave in their own self-interest, even at the expense of rank-and-file members; the greater the likelihood that the leader will behave this way.

iron triangle

Insular and closed relationship among interest groups, members of Congress, and federal agencies.

issue advocacy

Sponsoring advertisements (issue ads) or distributing literature on a policy issue, rather than for a specific candidate.

issue network

View of the relationship among interest groups, members of Congress, and federal agencies as more fluid, open, and transparent than that described by the term iron triangle.


Act of trying to persuade elected officials to adopt a specific policy change or maintain the status quo.

material benefits

Tangible benefits available only to members of a group, such as discounts and monthly magazines.

military-industrial complex

Self-serving interconnection among the U.S. military, the defense manufacturing industry, and federal agencies overseeing scientific research.

National Labor Relations Act

Established a federal role in monitoring and protecting working conditions and in intervening in disputes between workers and management (1935).


View of democratic society in which interest groups compete over policy goals and elected officials are mediators of group conflict.


Condition in which differences between parties and/or the public are so stark that disagreement breaks out, fueling attacks and controversy.

political action committees (PACs)

Groups formed to raise and contribute funds to support electoral candidates and that are subject to campaign finance laws.

proactive group

Group that forms when an enterprising individual sees an opening or opportunity to create the group for social, political, or economic purposes.

professional associations

Interest groups that represent individuals who share similar jobs.


The Eighteenth Amendment, enacted in 1919, that banned that manufacture, sale, consumption, importation, and export of alcoholic beverages; repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933; also used to identify the time period the amendment was in effect.

public goods

Goods or benefits provided by government from which everyone benefits and from which no one can be excluded.

reactive group

Group that forms in response to a perceived threat from another group, or to fight a government policy those who join believe will adversely affect them, or in response to an unexpected external event.

revolving door

Movement of members of Congress, lobbyists, and executive branch employees into paid positions in each other's organizations.

right of association

Right to freely associate with others and form groups, protected by the First Amendment.

right of petition

Right to ask the government for assistance with a problem or to express opposition to a government policy, protected by the first Amendment.

selective benefits

Benefits offered exclusively to members of an interest group.

single-issue groups

Groups that form to present one view on a highly salient issue that is intensely important to members, such as gun control or abortion.

solidarity benefits

Benefits to members of a group that are intangible but come from interacting with people who share similar professional or personal interests.

special interests

Set of groups seeking a particular benefit for themselves in the policy process.

trade associations

Interest groups that represent firms that share a common economic perspective.


Interest groups of individuals who share a common type of employment and seek better wages and working conditions through collective bargaining with employers.


Role of the press in monitoring governmental actions.

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