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None of this suggests that an unlimited number of interests can exist in society. The size of the economy has a bearing on the number of interests, but only up to a certain point, after which the number increases at a declining rate. As we will see below, the limit on the number of interests depends on the available resources and levels of competition.

Over the last few decades, we have also witnessed an increase in professionalization in lobbying and in the sophistication of lobbying techniques. This was not always the case, because lobbying was not considered a serious profession in the mid-twentieth century. Over the past three decades, there has been an increase in the number of contract lobbying firms. These firms are often effective because they bring significant resources to the table, their lobbyists are knowledgeable about the issues on which they lobby, and they may have existing relationships with lawmakers. In fact, relationships between lobbyists and legislators are often ongoing, and these are critical if lobbyists want access to lawmakers. However, not every interest can afford to hire high-priced contract lobbyists to represent it. As [link] suggests, a great deal of money is spent on lobbying activities.

This table lists the top twenty U.S. lobbying firms in 2014 as determined by total lobbying income.
https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?showYear=2014&indexType=l (March 1, 2016).
Top Lobbying Firms in 2014
Lobbying Firm Total Lobbying Annual Income
Akin, Gump et al. $35,550,000
Squire Patton Boggs $31,540,000
Podesta Group $25,070,000
Brownstein, Hyatt et al. $23,400,000
Van Scoyoc Assoc. $21,420,000
Holland&Knight $19,250,000
Capitol Counsel $17,930,000
K&L Gates $17,420,000
Williams&Jensen $16,430,000
BGR Group $15,470,000
Peck Madigan Jones $13,395,000
Cornerstone Government Affairs $13,380,000
Ernst&Young $12,440,000
Hogan Lovells $12,410,000
Capitol Tax Partners $12,390,000
Cassidy&Assoc. $12,090,000
Fierce, Isakowitz&Blalock $11,970,000
Covington&Burling $11,537,000
Mehlman, Castagnetti et al. $11,180,000
Alpine Group $10,950,00

We have also seen greater limits on inside lobbying activities. In the past, many lobbyists were described as “good ol’ boys” who often provided gifts or other favors in exchange for political access or other considerations. Today, restrictions limit the types of gifts and benefits lobbyists can bestow on lawmakers. There are certainly fewer “good ol’ boy” lobbyists, and many lobbyists are now full-time professionals. The regulation of lobbying is addressed in greater detail below.

How representative is the interest group system?

Participation in the United States has never been equal; wealth and education, components of socioeconomic status, are strong predictors of political engagement.

Sidney Verba, Kay Lehmnn Schlozman, and Henry Brady. 1995. Voice and Equality . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
We already discussed how wealth can help overcome collective action problems, but lack of wealth also serves as a barrier to participation more generally. These types of barriers pose challenges, making it less likely for some groups than others to participate.
Steven J. Rosenstone and John Mark Hansen. 2003. Mobilization, Participation, and Democracy in America . New York: Longman.
Some institutions, including large corporations, are more likely to participate in the political process than others, simply because they have tremendous resources. And with these resources, they can write a check to a political campaign or hire a lobbyist to represent their organization. Writing a check and hiring a lobbyist are unlikely options for a disadvantaged group ( [link] ).

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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