Chapter Study Outline

The Character of Interest Groups

  1. An interest group is an organized group of people that makes policy-related appeals to government. An enormous number of diverse interest groups exist in the United States.
  2. The framers of the Constitution argued for pluralism, in which all interests are and should be free to compete for influence in the United States. They believed the outcome of this competition would be compromise and moderation, since no group would be able to achieve any of its goals without accommodating itself to some of the views of its many competitors.
  3. Most interest groups share key organizational components, including leadership, money, an agency or office, and members.
  4. Interest-group politics in the United States tends to have a pronounced upper-class bias because of the characteristics of interest-group members.
  5. Because of natural disincentives to join interest groups, groups offer material, informational, solidary, and purposive benefits to entice people to join.

The Proliferation of Groups

  1. The modern expansion of governmental economic and social programs has contributed to the enormous increase in group activity and organization.
  2. Another factor accounting for the explosion of interest-group activity in recent years was the emergence of a new set of forces in American politics: the New Politics movement.

Strategies: The Quest for Political Power

  1. Lobbying is an effort by outsiders to influence Congress or government agencies by providing them with information about issues, giving them support, and even threatening them with retaliation.
  2. The so-called iron triangle has one point in an executive-branch program, another point in a Senate or House legislative committee or subcommittee, and a third point in an interest group. The points in the triangular relationship are mutually supporting and work together for a mutual benefit; they count as access only if they last over a long period of time.
  3. A number of important policy domains are controlled not by iron triangles but by a collection of issue networks that consist of like-minded politicians, consultants, public officials, political activists, and interest groups having some concern with the issue in question.
  4. To counter the growing influence of the lobbying industry, stricter guidelines regulating the actions of lobbyists have been adopted in the last decade; however, lobbyists have found ways to circumvent many of the new rules.
  5. Interest groups often turn to litigation when they lack access or feel they have insufficient influence over the formulation and implementation of public policy. Interest groups can use the courts to affect public policy by bringing suit directly on behalf of the group itself, by financing suits brought by individuals, or by filing a companion brief as an amicus curiae to an existing court case.
  6. Going public is a strategy that attempts to mobilize the widest and most favorable climate of opinion. Examples of going public include institutional advertising, demonstrations, and grassroots mobilization.
  7. Interest groups also seek to use the electoral process to elect the right legislators in the first place and to ensure that those who are elected will owe them a debt of gratitude for their financial support and campaign activism. Some groups employ a nonpartisan strategy in electoral politics to avoid giving up access to one party by embracing the other.

Thinking Critically about Groups and Interests: The Dilemmas of Reform

  1. The organization of private interests into groups to advance their own views is a necessary and intrinsic element of the liberty of citizens to pursue their private lives and to express their views, individually and collectively.
  2. The organization of private interests into groups is biased in favor of the wealthy and the powerful, who have superior knowledge, opportunity, and resources with which to organize.