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3.3 PRESSURE GROUPS (also known as Interest Groups)

1. Key concepts:
a) pressure group ­ Sometimes called interest group. David Truman said an interest group is "an organised body of
individuals who share the same goals and who try to influence public policy". They do not offer candidates for

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Professional lobbyists now very important (numbers are increasing as are the fees they can command).
Examples include: the success of the NRA's full time team, and the lobbyists who blocked Clinton's health
reforms by representing their business clients.
A useful source of information and expertise. For policymakers to be successful,…

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a minimum of 50 donors and make contributions to a minimum of five candidates. PACs are not a loophole in the
campaign finance system. After Watergate era (Fat Cats giving money to Nixon) individual donations limited, but
PACs were not limited in the total level of giving (just $5000 to…

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Discuss campaign finance legislation (see above) which is designed to limit the impact of Pressure Groups on the
electoral process, most notably the Federal Elections Campaign Acts (FECA) of the 1970s and the Bipartisan
Campaigns Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002.
Discuss the loopholes pressure groups have found in the legislation…

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a) Power elitism C Wright Mills wrote "The Power Elite". He said a small group, the "possessors of power, wealth,
and celebrity", govern the nation in their interest and not in the interests of the majority of the American people.
Military ­ Industrial complex. Theodore Lowi says p.g. power is…

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Cabinet, EXOP, civil servants, key economic groups + advisors

Core Congress, Congressional Committees, party sources, Supreme Court

party groupings outside Congress, States

cause groups, media, academics

general public

11. Is US a pluralist or elitist system?
See Q9. This can be argued both ways. Most commentators would argue…

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d) Hearings. At congressional committee hearings the members of the committee put questions to witnesses, to
determine opinion on issues or legislative proposals. These hearings present ideal opportunities for pressure
groups to put their case to members of Congress many will act as witnesses, giving testimony about their area of…

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Interest groups will adopt a range of strategies in support of nominees who share their political outlook, or
opposition to nominees who may rule against their interests (e.g., NAACP opposed Bork), including:
Compiling detailed dossiers on the judgements (and private lives) of the nominee.
Ensuring that their members know the…

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b) contacts
c) expertise
d) resources they can mobilise
d) Influencing the Federal bureaucracy
Indirect access may be available to groups with the ability to influence the Federal Bureaucracy. This is often the
preferred avenue of groups unable to access the President directly. Civil servants, whose longterm projects may

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For those on the left, therefore, the concerns of the Founding Fathers were legitimate and they tend to be critical of the role
played by pressure groups in modern America (NB Founding Fathers concern was that `factions' (selfinterested groups)
might use access points to advance their interests at the expense…




too basic

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