US Pressure Groups Revision Notes

All my notes from this topic last year. Quite extensive and (I think) well-presented. I hope you agree with me - and that they help, of course.

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Pressure Groups
Are `Interest Groups' good for democracy in America?
"Sow the seed of conflict in our society"
Pluralist theory ­ many groups representing different interests
Elite and class theory ­ the rich and powerful win
Members don't always guarantee success ­ 13m college students at any
one time, far more than NRA but lacking the interest group representation
Good Example Bad Example
Important Logging in Undemocratic ­ Michelle
representative Washington buying policies Bachmann (one of
function debate under from government the biggest
Clinton­ both sides advocates of oil
represented drilling) mostly
(logging and funded by
environmental American oil
groups) companies
Politicians need to Hundreds of votes Rich and powerful Roughly 80% of
be informed on in Congress per groups are lobbyists in
wide range of year (619 in disproportionately Washington are
topics House, 215 in influential with from corporations
Senate in 2008) government and trade and
Plenty of examples MLK and civil Allegations of Lockheed Martin
of poor and rights corruption with $30bn of
disenfranchised pressure groups Pentagon
having successfully winning contracts in
lobbying government 20002001 had
government contracts contacts with VP
Cheney and other
cabinet members
Political Action Committees (PACs)
PACs are organisations that take donations in order to avoid rules about
funding political candidates directly. PACs may raise unlimited funds and
spend this money however they wish, provided they do not coordinate their
activities with candidates.
The term `Super PAC' refers to the large PACs supporting, for example, the
Republican presidential candidates, which raise larger sums of money for
candidates than normal PACs.
More than 1600% more ads from PACs in 2012 election race than in 2008
(from 1,700 ads)
John Paulson, Hedge Fund Manager in Wall Street, is funding Romney's
campaign ­ Romney's not winning, Wall Street is

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Michelle Bachmann, one of the most outspoken advocates of oil drilling, has
been funded largely by American oil companies
PACs are influential PACs are not so influential
Romney's Super PAC spent over $20m Every major candidate has had a Super
on adverts ­ mostly negative, arguably PAC ­ while they differ in size, no clear
helping him stay on top evidence to suggest they control election
results e.g.…read more

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Not much in the way of regulations on special interest groups favouring the
wealthy and buying influence and power ­ plenty of regulation put in, but they
always get around it
(Teddy Roosevelt started dealing with this in his tenure at the turn of the 20th
century, but it has never really worked)
Main concerns, despite regulation:
o Still serious allegations of buying power
o Both Democrat and Republican voters often feel democracy doesn't
work as well as it should
Citizens United undid the BiPartisan…read more

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Howard Dean model has changed things for elections, making it
possible to raise large amounts of money and support through smaller
o Obama opted out of federal funding of elections as he thought he
could raise more money via his own efforts and the Dean model
o Obama also did not accept money from lobbyists…read more


Old Sir

A very useful contribution to any survey/discussion of the recent work of US pressure groups and any debate about the degrees to which the do and do not have an impact upon American politics.

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