An interest group is any association of persons or institutions often officially organized in such a way that with their either one or more common interests and concerns they try to influence the public policy in their advantage. They are usually formed by individuals or organizations that have the same aims and struggles and are aimed at sensitizing and coaxing the policy makers or legislators to make policies that best suit their members’ interest or the general public. In many cases, these interest groups have a common aim of influencing government policy to the advantage of themselves or whatever their goals are and to their members. Interest groups can have goals that re either aimed at the general public or those that are aimed to benefit individual members of the group. For instance, those aimed at the general public could be addressing issues like air pollution through poor energy resources, poor or inadequate government security, and improved usage of water. Interest groups try to achieve their goals through coaxing or putting extra pressure on the legislators so that the policies that are made are in their favor. CITATION Ron97 l 1033 (Hrebenar, 1997)Interest groups are usually formed by individuals or groups of people in a given line of action that exists in the society. For instance, teachers in the society can come up with a lobby group to address their issues to the policy makers such that the policies that will be made do not eventually affect them negatively.
Also, open air market traders in a given state or society can come together and form a group that will voice their troubles and tribulations to the government or the legislators so that they will be taken care of when the policies are being formulated.
Journalists can also come together to form a movement or group that will ensure that policies that will be made by the legislators are not going to limit their rights and activities as journalists. Some examples of interest groups in America include the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights League, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Organization for Women, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Americans United for the Separation of the Church and the State, the American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations just to mention but a few. Political parties are group of persons organized in such a way that they can get and exercise political power. These people usually have almost the same political goals and views on how position and authority are supposed to be exercised in a country or society.
They tend to influence the public policy or opinions by ensuring their favored candidate are voted into the assumed office.
Political parties act as a link between the government’s laid down organizations and institutions to the organizations in the society that champions the rights of the people [the interest groups]. They are the means through which the interest groups are able to reach the policy makers in the Senate, in the parliament and in the main government. CITATION Ste83 l 1033 (Miller, `1983)Political parties have their beliefs, views and ideas as we have seen earlier. Therefore, interest groups with similar views or beliefs will support this political party and have its members elected into enviable positions in the parliament. At parliament, the elected members are supposed to defend and uphold the beliefs and ideas of the political party that sponsored them to the parliament. Therefore, there is a special relationship between the political parties and the different interest groups. Though with this special relationship, political parties are different from this interest groups in that political parties are more likely to change their aims and beliefs over time unlike the interest groups that do not change their beliefs and goals unless they are achieved. Political parties can change according to international or national reforms and agendas depending on the needs and actions of that particular country at that time. But with interest groups, they do not change their pursuits and are consistent, always focused on the prize till it has been achieved. (Walker, 1991)
Political parties can change their stand to a given issue but yet still remain to be a political party. Also, its members continue to be members of the same group even when they disagree with all the ideas and views held by the mother political party. Although these members are partially supporting the ideologies of the party, they still continue as members of the same said party.
On the other hand, an interest group cannot change what it stands for and still remain in existence. Its existence is on the promises that it advocates for the interests or views that led to its formation for instance, a grouped formed to champion for the workers’ rights would be declared irrelevant if it starts to champion for the rights of the children which according to international standards are not workers. Also, members are to either fully agree or disagree towards the advancement of its cause. A member will only continue to be a member if they also have the same the group ideology as the group and also follows the rules and regulations of the said group.
Interest groups usually depend on the number of members for their support and existence. With a high membership, this interest group is likely to have a greater financial ability. These interest groups most likely depend on the members’ contribution and that is why large membership is of a greater advantage to the said interest group.
Political parties are not so much dependent on the number of their members. Usually, members’ count does not assure its eventual win. Rather, the party’s political strategy to get into the independent-minded individuals’ views and needs and being assured that they shall be able given services on demand can make it win.
The relationship between political parties and the interest groups is evident. They at some point share similar views and interests and probably often get involved in similar activities in search of political influence or gain. However, they differ in their plan and design. Political parties have greater freedom on what they hear and say hence flexible thus become more political-minded than the interest groups. CITATION All11 l 1033 (Cigler, 2011)Interest groups address a section of people in the society who have these needs or problems. They strongly champion individual rights or gains. An interest group that addresses the plight of workers appeals more to every concerned worker than that one that doesn’t since they hold similar ideologies and beliefs. An interest group that addresses abortion will be supported mainly by the clerics and church organizations in the society and would champion its cause. Also, an interest group that addresses environmental issues will be accommodated by the environmentalists and they will support its ideologies and opinions. Thus from the onset, interest groups have staunch followers and supporters who believe firmly in what the interest group advocates for.
Therefore, congress members have to from time to time hear the interest group’s point of view during the formulation of policies. But the leaders of interest groups and the members of the congress usually have differing opinions depending on the intentions of the either two. For instance, the congress members may feel that the leaders of these interest groups only want to ensure that the legislative process is influenced by their interests and on the other hand, the interest groups might feel that the congress, being the only body that can make laws or policies, overlooks their concerns. (Walker, 1991)
The congress has to move out of their way and act fast after careful considerations of the ideologies of either parties and reach to a consensus. Therefore, this shows that the congress hence gave the interest groups an opportunity to provide accurate and relevant information that will enable it to pass policies that are acceptable to all. Thus, interest groups are involved in the whole process of decision making from the first process of thinking it over to the introduction of the written copy to the congress then through the hearing of the congress committees defend their ideologies. This hence shows that interest groups have a big influence on the congress during the formulation of policies that are accommodative of many different interest groups and congress member’s views. At the formulation of bills, there is a lot of coaxing required. An idea has to be pushed harder in the congress for it to gain an afterthought. At this stage, there is greater need to rally infinite members towards your point of view for the bill to be passed into law or else you lose terribly. The interest groups show their involvement at the inception to the legislators as well as to other groups by advertising mainly on the mainstream media houses as a way of informing the congress members, the public and other groups that they have a great portion in this issue and it should be addressed. (Wright, 2003)
During the committee hearings, interest groups are required for intense lobbying of the formulated bill. Interest groups are called upon to give testimonies at the committee hearings. These testimonies are aimed at influencing the decision that will be reached by that congress committee. These groups can testify by either sending a representative of the group or by giving a written detailed account of their beliefs and observations. Interest groups prefer to testify in person since this gives them a chance to voice their views and opinions as well as defend them unlike a written account where the message at hand is not questioned extensively. At the congress committee hearings, the members are educated about the problems or concerns of either options and the consequences of each option if likely passed into law. . (Wright, 2003)
Also at the floor of the congress, controversial issues might lead to division of votes during the vetting of the bills. Thus, interest groups can create swing votes for a particular side so that the bill is either voted in or out in their favor. The President has to assent to a bill before it can be legally enforced. Interest group may seek a way to let the President know of their existence and its cause providing su7fficient reasons why the said bill should be or not be assented to become a law. (Bayes, 1982)
Interest groups play an important role in America for a number of reasons. Business interest groups are usually held accountable for the performance of the American economy. Therefore, the elected officials to this interest group work round the clock to ensure that the economic policies formulated are for the better gain or improvement of the American economy and population. Individual organizations and establishments lobby or influence legislators during formulation of policies at the congress. Information is one of the main reasons why some interest groups play important roles during the decision-making by the Congress or Senate. Groups get information from the policy makers easily and they involve their technical staff to analyze and evaluate each option. They can also share the same information from the executive as well as the legislature. Interest groups also share information among its members and the rest of the public and even other interest groups that can assist or have adequate knowledge of the bill or subject in context. Interest groups do better because of the wide nature of resources, both financial and material due large membership of the American society. CITATION Fra01 l 1033 (Baugmartner & Leech, 2001)Citations
Wright, J. R. (2003). Interest groups and Congress: Lobbying, contributions, and influence/ John R. Wright. New York: Longman.
Baumgartner, F. R., & Leech, B. L. (2001). Basic Interests: The Importance of Groups in Politics and in Political Science. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Miller, S. (1983). Special interest groups in American politics. New Brunswick u.a: Transaction Books.
Hrebenar, R. J. (1997). Interest group politics in America. Armonk, NY [u.a.: Sharpe.
Cigler, A. J. (2011). Interest group politics. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Bayes, J. H. (1982). Ideologies and interest-group politics: The United States as a special-interest state in the global economy. Novato, Calif: Chandler & Sharp Publishers.
Walker, J. L. (1991). Mobilizing interest groups in America: Patrons, professions, and social movements. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.