Interest Group Interventions in the Administrative Process: Conspirators and Co-Conspirators
William T. Gormley Jr.
THE IMPLEMENTATION of the Clean Air Act of 1990 troubled state governments and private corporations. Corporations objected to a car-pooling requirement that employers in nine smoggy cities take steps to encourage car pooling or the use of mass transit. State governments objected to an automobile emissions testing program in regions with exceptionally dirty air. Following tense conversations with governors and corporate officials, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner announced that participation in the car-pooling initiative would be voluntary and that smaller reductions in automobile emissions would be allowed ( Lee 1996, 1). This episode illustrates how interest groups, including state governments, can influence the outcome of important decisions by federal agencies.
This chapter provides a broad overview of interest group involvement in decisions made by the federal bureaucracy. Students of bureaucratic politics and public administration differ in their assessment of the importance and the propriety of interest group interventions. According to some observers, interest groups are ubiquitous, importunate, and efficacious. According to others, interest groups are eclipsed by other important actors, such as legislators, political executives, and bureaucrats themselves. If interest groups do matter, a key normative concern is whether the constellation of interest groups active in particular proceedings or discussions is representative of the wider society. Another concern is whether interest groups support or undermine rational decision making.