An interest group is an organized collection of people with common goals and concerns who seek to influence government policy ( Berry 1997). Truman ( 1951, 33) defines an interest group as "any group that, on the basis of one or more shared attitudes, makes certain claims upon other groups in the society for the establishment, maintenance, or enhancement of forms of behavior that are implied by the shared attitudes." The basic elements of the two definitions are a group of people, some common interests, organized, seeking to influence others (the public, other groups, government.).
+As in areas such as political parties, the U.S. Constitution is silent about interest groups. The First Amendment to the Constitution nevertheless provides protections for the formation and activities of interest groups. The rights granted by the First Amendment include free speech and press, assembly, and petitioning government.
The first two rights, speech and press, have become subsumed under the term freedom of expression. While freedom of expression has been expanded in controversial areas such as obscenity, there is little doubt that freedom of speech and of the press were meant to defend political expression. These two freedoms provide protection for the utterance of ideas necessary in a democratic society. In the context of interest groups, this means that interest groups can advocate policies or changes in policies and try to influence other members of society (without the use of coercion).
The last two freedoms, assembly and petition, are at the heart of protections affecting interest groups. The right to assembly means to gather together. It allows groups to meet and make decisions, plans, and so forth without government interference. The right to petition refers to the right to complain to or lobby government about its policies. Given our definition of