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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe how interest groups influence the government through elections
  • Explain how interest groups influence the government through the governance processes

Many people criticize the huge amounts of money spent in politics. Some argue that interest groups have too much influence on who wins elections, while others suggest influence is also problematic when interests try to sway politicians in office. There is little doubt that interest groups often try to achieve their objectives by influencing elections and politicians, but discovering whether they have succeeded in changing minds is actually challenging because they tend to support those who already agree with them.

Influence in elections

Interest groups support candidates who are sympathetic to their views in hopes of gaining access to them once they are in office.

John R. Wright. 1996. Interest Groups and Congress: Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence . Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon; Mark J. Rozell, Clyde Wilcox, and Michael M. Franz. 2012. Interest Groups in American Campaigns: The New Face of Electioneering . New York: Oxford University Press.
For example, an organization like the NRA will back candidates who support Second Amendment rights. Both the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (an interest group that favors background checks for firearm purchases) have grading systems that evaluate candidates and states based on their records of supporting these organizations.
https://www.nrapvf.org/grades/; http://www.bradycampaign.org/2013-state-scorecard (March 1, 2016).
To garner the support of the NRA, candidates must receive an A+ rating for the group. In much the same way, Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal interest group, and the American Conservative Union, a conservative interest group, both rate politicians based on their voting records on issues these organizations view as important.
http://www.adaction.org/pages/publications/voting-records.php; http://acuratings.conservative.org/ (March 1, 2016).

These ratings, and those of many other groups, are useful for interests and the public in deciding which candidates to support and which to oppose. Incumbents have electoral advantages in terms of name recognition, experience, and fundraising abilities, and they often receive support because interest groups want access to the candidate who is likely to win. Some interest groups will offer support to the challenger, particularly if the challenger better aligns with the interest’s views or the incumbent is vulnerable. Sometimes, interest groups even hedge their bets and give to both major party candidates for a particular office in the hopes of having access regardless of who wins.

Some interests groups form political action committees (PACs), groups that collect funds from donors and distribute them to candidates who support their issues. As [link] makes apparent, many large corporations like Honeywell International, AT&T, and Lockheed Martin form PACs to distribute money to candidates.

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/ (March 1, 2016).
Other PACs are either politically or ideologically oriented. For example, the MoveOn.org PAC is a progressive group that formed following the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, whereas GOPAC is a Republican PAC that promotes state and local candidates of that party. PACs are limited in the amount of money that they can contribute to individual candidates or to national party organizations; they can contribute no more than $5,000 per candidate per election and no more than $15,000 a year to a national political party. Individual contributions to PACs are also limited to $5,000 a year.

Questions & Answers

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yes
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by following all the due processes
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3
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3
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Bailey
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Darhel Reply
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because it is documented
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government of the people by the people and for the people
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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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