Chapter 14: Vocabulary




Campaign finance reform: legislation aimed at placing limits on political candidates accepting money and gifts from individuals and special interest groups


Elite and class theory: a group theory that revolves around an economic stratum of society controlling the policy agenda


Faction: splinter group of a political party


Freedom of Information Act 1974: act that incorporates sunshine laws; opened up the government’s meetings of record to the public and media


Hard money: federally regulated campaign contributions made to political candidates and political parties.  Under current law, hard money contributions cannot exceed $1000 per individual per election cycle.


Hyperpluralism: a group theory characterized by many interest groups vying for control resulting in a government that is tied up in gridlock


Interest group: a public or private organization, affiliation, or committee that has, as its goal, the dissemination of its membership’s viewpoints


Lobbyist: the primary instruments of fostering the special interest group’s goals to the policymakers.  The term comes people who literally wait in the lobbies of legislative bodies for senators and representatives to go to and from the floor of the legislatures.


Political Action Committees (PAC’s): they raise money from the special interest constituents and make contributions to political campaigns on behalf of the special interest group.


Soft money: unrestricted and unregulated legal campaign contributions made to political parties and intended for party development.  Significant abuses of soft money contributions were discovered during the 1996 election.


Chapter 14: Special Interest Groups- Lobbyists and PACs



Characteristics of Special Interest Groups

A special interest group is a public or private organization, affiliation, or committee that has as its goal the dissemination of its membership’s viewpoint.

- Result: persuading public policymakers to respond to group’s   perspective

- Goals carried out by lobbyists and PACs

- Take on affiliation based on specialized memberships like unions, associations, leagues, and committees

            Special interest groups… different than political parties

-         do not nominate candidates… want to influence those in office rather than be elected


-         are responsible for only very narrow constituencies

-         can make up own by-laws

-         provide a lot of information to legislators

-         claim to be additional “check and balance”

-         Internal functions

o       Attract and keep memberships (make promises to their members that they will succeed in their political goals)

o       Must have adequate financial base—charge dues or hold fundraisers

o       Elected officers


Group Theory

            Types of Group Activity

1.      Pluralism: a centrist position results b/c there is a more far-reaching/balancing group representation

o       competition = healthy; gov’t officials have a choice

o       competition prevents dominating of one group in gov’t

o       each develop own political strategies… resources of one group will independently affect gov’t policy

2.      Hyperpluralism: says there are so many competing groups that gridlock occurs and there is not a clear gov’t direction

o       competing groups become so powerful that gov’t tries to get rid of them

o       the more groups that exist… the more likely each group is to find a gov’t agency that will respond to them (triangle arrangements)

o       gov’t gridlock

3.      Elite theory: group behavior derives from an upper class; many interest groups = elitist in nature

·        Critics maintain that…

§         power held by largest and richest organization

§         unequal nature of power of groups negates the fact that groups are proliferating

§         these groups will have the most influence b/c they have the most money



James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10 that factions were inevitable.  He felt that the separation of powers of 3 branches of government and division of national and local government provides protection and regulation.

            Madison also felt factions could be dangerous… Shays’ Rebellion


-         gave legitimacy to formation of special interest groups

-         right of free assembly, free speech, free press, right to petition

Many factions have existed in American history…

-         suffragettes

-         prohibitionists

-         labor unions

-         civil right groups


Mode of Operation

Various concerns/categories of special interest groups…

·                    Economic and occupational including business and labor groups, trade associations, agricultural groups and professional associations

·                    Energy and environmental

·                    Religious, racial, gender, and ethnic

·                    Political professional, and ideological

Use lobbyists and PACs


-         testifying at congressional hearings

-         contacting gov’t officials directly

-         providing officials w/ research info

-         sending letters to t heir own membership

-         trying to influence the press to present their point of view

-         suggesting and supporting legislation

-         hiring lobbyists

-         giving senators and reps feedback from their constituents

-         making contributions throu PACs to campaign cmoittees

-         taking congressmen on trips or to dinner

-         endorsing candidates

-         working on campaigns



**Primary instruments for fostering a special interest group’s goals to policymakers


-         knowing as much as you can about political situation and the people involved

-         understanding the goals of the group and determining who you want to see

-         being truthful in the way you deal with people

-         working  closely with the interest group that hired you

-         keeping the people you are trying to convince in your corner by telling them of the support they will receive if they agree to the position of the group

-         following up on all meetings, making sure the results you want do not change

Sometimes attract negative publicity

Can play positive role as specialists


Political Action Committees (PACs)

What they do…

     - raise money from constituents

     - make contributions to political campaigns on behalf of group

The amount of contributions to congressional campaigns by PACs has skyrocketed from 1981 to 1994.

            1981-82: 83.7 million

            1993-94: 179.6 million



Special interest public interest groups… calling for reform and regulation if interest groups, lobbyists, and PACs

-         say groups are dominated by rich and ignore poor

-         say groups give excessive amounts of money to group officials

Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act 1946

Federal Election Campaign Acts from 1971 to 1974


Public Awareness and Effectiveness

Legislators must accept ‘bill of sale’

Public must be aware