The Clinton Administration and Interest Groups
GRAHAM K. WILSON
William Jefferson Clinton came to a Washington often criticized by his fellow citizens for being dominated by "special interests." Running, like so many of his predecessors, against Washington, Candidate Clinton had promised to change this situation. But what have President Clinton's relations with interest groups been like in practice?
Any description of the relationship between presidents and interest groups swiftly encounters two problems that are characteristic of the interest group system: variety and change.
There is enormous variety in the interest-group system. We use the term "interest group" to refer to organizations as diverse as churches, business corporations, universities, the American Automobile Association (AAA), the Sierra Club, and labor unions. These organizations differ in the resources available to them, their internal structures, and their strategies for dealing with the rest of the political system. An administration's relationship with one interest group often will not be the same as its relationship with another; a president who is on cordial terms with environmental groups for that very reason may be on less cordial terms with business groups, or vice versa. Some interest groups will pursue strategies based on discrete and technical discussions with an administration's representatives; other interest groups will pursue a protest strategy, mobilizing against an administration instead of engaging in dialogue with it.