11
Interest groups and lobbying
Interest groups are the basis of the ‘persuasion industry’. They attempt to persuade – or ‘lobby’ – decision-makers at federal, state and local level. In contrast to political parties, they do not generally seek to win elected office.Organised groupings have long been a characteristic feature of American politics. As early as the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville was struck by them. ‘In no country in the world’, he asserted, ‘has the principle of association been more successfully used, or applied to a greater multitude of objects, than in America’ (1984: 95). Over the past century, interest groups – or political advocacy groups – have developed alongside the religious and civic groupings that Tocqueville described and have, within recent years, proliferated. At the same time, corporations have become much more assertive and astute in terms of lobbying techniques. In 1991, National Journal identified 328 groups, ninety-eight think tanks, 288 trade and professional associations, and 682 company headquarters in Washington DC (Judis 1995b: 257). In 1997, an estimated $1.2 billion was spent by those seeking to influence the federal government (Abramson 1998). K Street in Washington DC is now synonymous with the lobbying industry.Why is there so much group activity in the US?
The American system of government is particularly open to external influence, and this encourages the creation of organised interests. There are large numbers of openings – or access points – that enable groups to reach decision-makers. These include the three branches of government in Washington DC, as well as the different tiers of state and local government. The courts are open to persuasion in a way that is prohibited in many other countries. At the same time, the use of primaries to determine the parties’ candidates and the system of election finance present countless opportunities that enable organisations to advance their arguments and interests.
Since the turn of the century, commerce and industry have been subject to increasing regulatory control by the federal government. Companies and ‘producer groups’ have, as a consequence, sought to influence those in

-249-

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US Politics Today
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables vii
  • List of Boxes ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Differences and Divisions 1
  • 2 - A Shared Culture 20
  • 3 - The Us Constitution 33
  • 4 - The Us Supreme Court 52
  • 5 - Congress 79
  • 6 - The President 102
  • 7 - The President and the Executive Branch 135
  • 8 - Federalism- The Role of the States 157
  • 9 - Political Parties 177
  • 10 - Elections and Campaigns 209
  • 11 - Interest Groups and Lobbying 249
  • 12 - Ideologies, Issues and Controversies 271
  • Appendix I- A Brief Chronology of the United States since 1789 289
  • Appendix II- The Us Constitution 293
  • Index 309
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