The Interest Group Process
Q: Would you say that government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves or that it is run for the benefit of all people?
A. A few big interests looking out for themselves--80 % For the benefit of all--18 %
--GALLUP NATIONAL OPINION POLL
INTEREST GROUP ACTIVITY dominates policymaking in Washington. The influence of organized interest groups permeates lawmaking in Congress, rule- making in federal executive agencies, and, increasingly, decision making in federal courts. And the nation's most powerful interest groups are sponsored and financed by the same corporations, banks, insurance companies, investment houses, law firms, media conglomerates, professional and trade associations, and civic organizations that constitute the nation's institutional elite.
Washington is awash in special interest organizations, lawyers and law firms, lobbyists, and influence peddlers. An estimated 15,000 people are officially designated as lobbyists--twenty-five for every member of Congress! Political life in the nation's capital is a frenetic blur of "lobbying," "fund-raising," "opening doors," "mobilizing the grass roots," "building coalitions," "litigating," "rubbing elbows," and "schmoozing." Lobbyists in Washington represent a broad array of interests (see table 5.1, p. 86). But clearly economic organizations dominate interest group politics. Roughly three-quarters of all the lobbyists in Washington represent corporations or business, trade, and professional organizations, or are lawyers from firms representing these interests.
Elite institutions sponsor and finance most of the organized interest group activity in Washington (see figure 5.1, p. 86). Corporate and business interests are represented, first of all, by large inclusive organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Association of Manufacturers; and the Business Round- table, representing the chief executive officers of the nation's largest corporations.