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Interest Groups

In life’s experience, friendship is easily built by an interest common to both or among different persons. The friendship would eventually grow and create a group of people that would organize themselves to strengthen and protect their interest. This human nature, though not recorded, could have contributed to the rise of organizations or groups existing in society. Historically, forming organizations have erupted during the middle ages, despite the fact that freedom of organization was non- existent (American Studies, 2008).

Individuals were assigned to a group with harsh and rigid rulers whom they are bound to follow (Truman, 1951). These groups existed under the government and have contributed to the foundation of the state (American Studies, 2008). Moreover, in the nineteenth century, religious wars were rampant in Europe. These wars have contributed to the religious freedom of every individual, especially the freedom to choose or join a group to worship God (American Studies, 2008).

Moreover, during the Industrial Revolution, religious groups have remarkably erupted through the full exercise of freedom of associations (American Studies, 2008). In addition, varieties of organizations were formed until such time that they have penetrated the policy- making processes of the government to fully represent their interests. These groups were finally referred as interest groups. There are numerous academic definitions of interest groups recorded but the most recognized is that of David Truman, a modern political writer.

According to Truman, interest groups are share-attitude groups that make certain claims upon other groups in the society. It can be simply defined as groups, based on one or more shared attitudes, engaged in influencing political decision- making, in order to successfully implement certain political goals or values (America. gov, 2008). They may or may not be organized. The definition of an interest group is further simplified as a group of people bounded by an interest common among them and expressing it to the government so that the latter will address their interests.

In addition, they also express their interest to the general public to attract more members. Notably, interest has been defined by its characteristic of expressing demands and aiming at the pursuit of specific goals (American Studies, 2008). In a democratic country, the existence of interest groups is normal and obvious in the course of the governmental functions. United States has been considered as the classic domain of interest groups which have constituted major political factors throughout the history.

Momentarily, the Political Action Committee (PAC) has been considered as the most powerful tool used by interest groups (American Studies, 2008). The PACs are election committees founded by interest groups that serve to support election campaign financially and organizationally and are duty bound to train campaign managers and staff, collect and distribute contributions, and provide pooling and advertising (America. gov, 2008). Moreover, the PAC supported the presidential campaign of Franklin D.

Roosevelt (American Studies, 2008). Later in history, the PACs were provided with legal basis in 1970’s making them essential in the policy- making of the government (American Studies, 2008). Eventually, different institutions such as church, universities, government agencies, foundations, and think tanks were formed and established their headquarters in Washington, D. C. (American Studies, 2008). Moreover, the rise of the organizations or interest groups has been strongly recognized by the U. S.

Constitution as laid down in the 1st Amendment which states that, “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” (Currie, 2000). Hence, the right of the people to organize and assemble has been extended to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Momentarily, it would be best to cite the essential factors that have influenced the rise of various interest groups.

The first factor is the differences in geography, climate, economic potential, culture, ethnicity, and religion (American Studies, 2008). These diversities have created political, socioeconomic, and cultural differences that cannot be singly represented by the government (American Studie, 2008). Another contributing factor is the Constitutional provision. The third factor is the federalism as it allows the interest groups to influence the policy on federal state and local level (American Studies, 2008).

The fourth factor is the emotional and ideological factors as influenced by American culture of individualism (American Studies, 2008). Furthermore, interest groups have risen primarily because their interest or cause is not being addressed by the government and thus, these people formed an organization as a tool to make their concerns and grievances heard. Organization can be broadly categorized into six types based on the members and interests that these groups represent.

The most common is the Public Interest Groups which share public concerns and represent common democratic interest (American Studies, 2008). Their interest could be on pollution or environment, consumer protection, or other social issues (American Studies, 2008). The best example of this group is the Greenpeace. They are known today as a public interest group for being active in protecting the environment not just in America but all over the world where there are crucial issues about the environment.

Common Cause is also another example as it struggles to diminish the influence of powerful private interest groups and limit the funding of federal election campaign (American Studies, 2008). Another example is the Congress Watch who is concerned with consumer affairs, environmental issues, transportation, and congressional reforms (American Studies, 2008). Normally, public interest groups represent and raise issues which are of general concern to the public (Brittanica Online, 2008). Any positive action or policy that may arise out of their efforts will not just benefit their members but also the whole society.

Greenpeace, for example, has only members who are environmentalists but the environmental issues that they raise in the local government and even in the international community, is a concern of everybody and any law or policy enacted would not only benefit their members but also other concerned people around the world. The second type is the Economic Interest Groups which are prominent in all countries (Brittanica Online, 2008). The economic groups further the interests of their business and the economy in general.

One example of this is the American Farm Bureau Federation (Brittanica Online, 2008). The third type is the Professional Groups which focuses on the collective interests, values, and status of their professions (America. gov, 2008). Examples of this type of interest group are the American Bar Association (ABA) and American Medical Association (AMA) (American Studies, 2008). The ABA influences the judiciary branch while the AMA is a political force that financially endorses conservative candidates and fights against Mediais and Medicare programs (American Studies, 2008).

The fourth type is the Cause Groups which represent only a segment of society and its primary purpose is to tackle non-economic issues that are usually focused on promoting a particular cause or value (Brittanica Online, 2008). This group includes organizations of churches and the religious and other single- interest groups. Moreover, some cause groups are single-issue groups, focusing very narrowly on their issue to the exclusion of all others- such as those favouring or opposing abortion rights or foxhunting- though most cause groups are more broadly based (Brittanica Online, 2008).

Another example is the Cure Autism Now (Brittanica Online, 2008). The last type of organization is the ideological groups who are often associated with extreme political current as they rise as a reaction to the perceived moral decay in society (American Studies, 2008). They basically tackle issues on abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, and other moral issues (American Studies, 2008). In addition, falling under this group are the non- associated interest groups who have an essential influence to the policy making processes of the government (Brittanica Online, 2008).

They include spontaneous protest movements formed in reaction to a particular policy or event and informal groups of citizen and officials of public and private organizations like what the French farmers did when they protested the governmental agriculture policy (Brittanica Online, 2008). It can be recalled that these French farmers caused a major traffic in Paris as a means of their protest. The last type is the private and public institutional interests which attempts to influence public policy in their favor (Brittanica Online, 2008).

Private institutional interests include think-tanks such as Brookings Institutions in the United States, private universities, and various forms of news media, particularly newspapers that advocate on behalf of a particular issue (Brittanica Online, 2008). Interest Groups are formed for a purpose of representing their group with particular interest and educate the public with issues concerning their interest that have an essential effect to the public. Through time, their purpose has extended to influencing the policy making of the government.

In order for their interests to be represented, they have adopted strategies that will enable them to easily reach and influence the policy making of the government. The very common strategy of the interest groups is the so- called lobbying. Lobbying literally means the lobby of the building (Congress) (American Studies, 2008) because the lobbyist usually employs their lobbying tactics inside lobbies of Congress. Lobbying involves pressuring policy makers in order to gain favorable policy outcomes (Brittanica Online, 2008). Lobbying can be done indirectly and directly.

Indirect lobbying consists of detouring around the constituencies in order to gain access to the decision makers in government (American Studies, 2008). The process can be done by binding and mobilization of constituencies by interest groups and the exertion of actual constituent pressures upon politicians (American Studies, 2008). The former involves public relation campaigns, the stimulation of mass media organizations and of support groups, and steady contact to sympathizers in the form of issue interpretation and education (American Studies, 2008).

Furthermore, this involves electioneering, formation of political action committees, and organizing strikes and demonstrations (American Studies, 2008). The latter process also involves activities in which the citizen action group protests, public opinion such as news editorials and the like, and direct contact with legislators in the form of telephone calls, letters or electronic mail in order to pressure them (American Studies, 2008). On the other hand, direct lobbying is done by directly contacting members of the legislative, executive, and judicial branch of the government.

They usually do it by disseminating their views on a proposed bill with hope that they can influence the particular legislator to adopt their point of views. Moreover, direct lobbying includes activities such as providing or withholding exclusive information, financial party contributions, and persuading key politicians directly (American Studies, 2008). Professional interest groups usually employ direct lobbying by utilizing Congressional hearings (Britannica Online, 2008). The MBA, for example, shares their technical know- how on a particular issue that has relation to the issues concerning medicare.

Another tactic of direct lobbying is through personal contacts with members of the legislature. The interest groups usually provides incentives, such as well salaried advising positions and high compensation for politician’s speech and participation in discussions, to their contacts in Congress in order to lure them to adopt their views on a particular issue (Brittanica Online, 2008). Another activity done by the interest groups to influence policy making is to engage in the election activities in the hope that, in return, the politicians they supported will support their interests too.

Engaging in election activityies includes giving money to candidates, endorsing candidates, and conducting grassroots activities such as influencing the voters (Learner. org, 2008). According to an article published in the New York Times, this tactic has been employed by the Citizens for a Strong Senate in 2005 wherein they funded a million dollar advertisement against a Republican candidate, Peter H. Coors. Furthermore, the interest groups exert effort to educate and mobilize the public using issues that they want to impart and be supported as well.

Interest groups also educate the public at large, the government officials, their own members, and potential interest group members in order to win their nod (Learner. org, 2008). In addition, mobilizing the public includes activities such as writing letters, making phone calls, contacting policy- makers and organizing demonstrations (Learner. org, 2008). These activities can be observed in many countries, especially in democratic countries, with the purpose also of attracting sympathizers from the international community. In all activities mentioned, communication plays a very important role.

It is their means of disseminating information pertaining to their group and it has also been a problem of the interest groups because their effort cannot guarantee that the general public and those in other nations are informed or have access to their organizations. However, at present, communication is not a major problem because of many interest groups have their own web pages in which all information about the organization is accessible. Through the evolution of the Internet, the interest groups do not just influence the local government but also the rest of the world.

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