I. Title: Public Interest Groups: An Analytic Look at Effects on U.S. Public Policy and the General Public
Public interest groups are incredibly influential over many different aspects of the lives of everyday citizens. Every time we step outside we experience, in someway or another, the effects of the benefits that have been reaped by these groups that try to best represent the public good in order to create a society where democratic ideals are legitimized through the participatory action of the everyday citizen such as is exemplified in these groups.
Public Interest Groups are able to gather and collect knowledge in a specific subject area to present to those in the Congress in order to help perpetuate the proposing, creating, and eventually establishing and implementing these policies to help create a “better” society; one in which the bourgeoisie corporate owners in this capitalist U.S. society is less at an advantage to create policies that harm civil life. The media helps to establish issues as the ones that need most attention, and are able to educate the public through various modes such as news articles, television programs, rallies, etc. in order to press issues that will most effect the way the public lives their lives. The analytical standpoint that this paper takes explains and observes how public interest groups are overwhelmingly relevant to the media as well as to the lives of everyday citizens.
III. Research Questions and Research Method:
When looking at public interest group, one tends to wonder about the aspects of what participating in an interest group entails, and how an interest group goes about setting and making goals. There are some major questions that an outsider may yearn to ask when looking into the subjects of interest groups. These questions are referred to as research questions in this paper and can be worded as follows:
What are the specific methods that interest groups use in order to effect public policy?
What do interest groups usually seek to achieve through this method, and how often are the goals they venture out to achieve actually attained? How long, by the standards of a general temporal notion, does it take to effect public policy in general? How do the effects that an interest group has on policy effect the normal everyday citizen?
The above stated research questions can be answered through delving into the matter of public policy from an analytic perspective. Through reading, analyzing, and scrutinizing material of other researchers, this paper is able to answer these questions in a blatant and detailed manner in order to unify several methods for this paper. Essentially all the research stems from literature reviews which are based off the four books, The Semisovreign People, The Interest Group Society, Dollars and Votes, and ____, along with the Rutgers Library Database, IRIS (all of which are later cited in the bibliography). The books, themselves, were originally assigned as supplemental reading materials along with the lectures by Bert Levine in The Rutgers University 300-Level “Interest Groups ” Class. As many of the insights of this paper are being worked into accordance with notes taken during the lectures in this class from Professor Bert Levine, who also co-wrote one of his the books used in this paper, there is an undoubtedly eminent interview-like tone that rings true throughout the course of the paper.
From the information derived from these books, and the lectures in which were given by the very well-educated Professor Levine on his specific insights upon the topic of Interest Groups, we are able to easily compare and contrast materials within this paper to get a well-rounded view of interest groups after content analysis has gotten underway. After Theories and Conceptsreading the materials cited in this paper, it was easy to make some connections and to highlight theories and concepts that pertain to the nature of the research questions this paper seeks to answer; and are moreover able to give well-detailed and thought out responses in the data analysis section of this paper.
IV. Theoretical Review
As it pertains to the theoretical aspect of interest as they serve their purpose in illustrating reoccurring situations within the field. Lobbyists, interest groups, and even those in the government have their own language of sorts in which they share amongst one and other. Some argue the point that this sort of language excludes the groups and the way they push policies, a few concepts and theories are commonly brought to light majority, them being the public. This promotes an elitist type of totalitarianism, which is exclusive among those ranked above the common man.
Every interest group is brought together by a common objective and, as a result, lobbies in favor or against some specific area or jurisdiction in which they wish to see some changes in policy made. It is important for groups to come to at least a moderate consensus on who they would like to favor and especially who they should oppose. To borrow a term from E.E. Schattschneider, the “line of cleavage” is the idea of emphasizing priorities on everything you intend to argue for or about. Schattschneider sums it up best when he concludes chapter four by asking, “Which battle do we want most to win?” (Schattschneider). When a group finally determines their stance, no matter where it may be, they also determine their opponents and establish a strong position for their group to expand from. This also attracts other groups and possible constituents. When everything is set and done, objectives need to prioritized by importance and will be taken care of one by one.
With that being said, it is vital for companies to include expanding their “scope of conflict” at the top of the priority list. E.E. Schattschneider explains it best when you deal with the scope of conflict, you must broaden it in order to attract more members in order to bring more people onto your side. “The scope of conflict is an aspect of the scale of political organization and the extent of political competition” (Schattschneider 20). Your friends and enemies are already established, but it is more significant to get your friends to join you. A great analogy that could be applied to this is a football coach who attempts to create a winning team. Sure work ethic, tenacity, and coaching ability matter, but they are only half as important as those who get involved. If you get those players who have the work ethic, are tenacious, and will listen to the coach in order to promote team work, you have yourself a winning team.
Possibly the most crucial concept dealing with interest groups as they relate to public policy is the “revolving door” in which members move back and fourth between the government and business. Bill Clinton was the first major politician to take note of the revolving door and deemed it as being a corrupt abuse of our government. By Clinton’s presidency it had become simply too easy to abuse the system and hop back and forth between lobbying and working government. A hop would generally signify a substantial pay increase for the official, as he/she tends to utilize his/hers previously established contacts and knowledge to manipulate the system in their favor. It is understandable why someone would deem this corrupt. But at the same time, it should also be taken into consideration that the passing of a law that would close the revolving door, would limit the job opportunities of someone in either the government or lobbying to progressing into a more prestigious job in the other, later in their life.
In order to prevent situations of possible corruption like the revolving door, the government establishes third party, government funded organizations such as the FCC, Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is a very commonly used term which refers to the bureaucratic authority that has jurisdiction over the passing and development of communications policy. This group’s goal to serve the public has been in question, as they tend to favor only communications policy aspect more than the people as a whole. In many scenarios, they are seen as going in the opposite direction of the Supreme Court, which was created to maintain justice and benefit the public. The FCC, because it is seen as such an opposition and is an expansive amount of money to fund and keep running, must also prove their essentiality to the cause of establishing and upholding worthwhile communication policies that are practical in everyday society. Unfortunately, this also may lead to corruption, as the FCC may appeal to those constituents who have more of an influence in keeping the FCC in power.
Policy making in the United States is not a clearly delineated and defined process. A policy must go through many different channels in order to be finally implemented as a regulation or law. The interest group will first go through what is called the Yellow Pad Theory, which is named for the fact that when starting off with a policy, one starts with a blank yellow pad and must draw out a plan of action in order to find the most efficient and least resistant path into creating policy (citE). Usually a policy will start off with an interest group dedicating much of its effort and funding into zeroing in on an issue in which they feel they have a lot of support, and is usually value-laden if it is a public policy. The interest group will then find a U.S. Senator or House Representative in order to be a “horse” for their policy, or in more lei man’s terms, a representative that would be best to carry through their policy based on various aspects of the representative’s qualities (citation needed- yellow pad theory).
The qualities that an interest group usually looks for when looking for a “horse” is influence, intellect, experience, ability, and possibly most importantly, a representative that seemingly holds and will personally back up the policy (citation needed) . From there the Senator or House Representative will present the policy to the leader of their Committee and then further put the policy on the floor to be moved onto the White House, and hopefully implemented as a bill. If not implemented, it is possible the policy will get sent back to Congress in order to be readjusted or restated. Due to the dynamic nature of the policy making process, it may take a long or short while depending the amount of time it takes to go through all of these steps and perhaps repeat them if the policy is vetoed or rejected on any level.
If it should occur that the policy is implemented, then the policy will go into “play” in American Society. In general, around 80-90 percent of policy passed in Congress each day will have little to no effect on the common, everyday citizen (Levine). Many policies passed rather place legislation on corporations and trade associations as to how to run their businesses in a more “worthwhile” manner through the eyes of society. It is mostly the issues in which the media uses “agenda-setting”, the ability to highlight conflicts in policy to gain more public attention through television, newspapers, radio talk shows, in order to create an environment and possibly display biased points of view in order to have the public swayed toward one way or another. In most cases, it seems to be the prominent case that Public Interest Groups are deemed to be angelic compared to corporations and trade associations, and therefore are usually able to influence the public in the way of their own interest through use of the media (Levine).
V. Data Analysis:
Based upon the findings of the researchers of this paper it seems that the above mentioned theories contained in the theoretical review section are not the only theories that are evident and valuable when taking interest groups into account. One must look at the many dynamic aspects of Public Interest Groups. They must look at those who make up the interest groups, the funding that a Public Interest Group is able to gain (especially in comparison to Corporations and Trade Associations), what policies and goals the interest groups have more power over in terms of public support, and in what environment one is looking an interest group’s policy and their subsequent effects.