The Myth Surrounding Interest Groups
For most questions posed, a lot of the time, the answers are not always black and white. There is a myth in America that interest groups are a corrupting influence throughout politics. Interest groups are not corrupt and self-serving however, there are a few that are corrupt. But for the majority, “their primary concern is to influence policy in their own area of interest” (Gitelston 293).
There are many key players that work in interest and other advocacy groups. An interest group is a group of people that have decided to come together who share a common goal and who want to change government decision making, such as the League of Women Voters. Even though they usually lobby for policies, they are vastly different from political parties. Interest groups do not try to get a candidate elected, they specifically focus on their own specialized area. Many people join interest groups to promote social or economic change. There are specific types of interest groups of well such as public interest groups and single-issue groups. Public interest groups try to work with the public at large; Common Cause, Public Citizen, and the Christian Coalition are all examples of this. These public interest groups try to represent “what they see as the public’s interest on such issues as civil rights, consumer protection, campaign reform, environmental regulation and family values” (Gitelson 297). On the other hand, organizations such as The National Rifle Association are considered to be part of a single-issue group. Groups like these have a narrow range of issues compared to those of public-interest groups. In these groups, the lobbyists are the ones who are the spokespersons for the interest group. Their influence to change governmental decision is known as lobbying. Many of lobbyists are lawyers or former Congressmen. (Gitelson 304)
NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) Pro-Choice America is a broad interest group that was founded in 1969 to deal with abortion laws. NARAL itself is comprised of three separate branches: NARAL Pro-Choice America Inc, NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, and NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC. The founder of this interest group was Betty Friedan. This interest group, “ assesses the pro-abortion rights vs. pro-life composition of Congress, rating legislators according their voting records on abortion-related issues” (NARAL). Again, interest groups are not corrupt and self-serving. They are clearly not self-serving if they have these thousands upon millions of people following them, hoping for a better way of life. These people wouldn’t follow them if they weren’t getting anything out of it in the long run. Also, these groups give incentives for people to join. As for lobbying groups, the majority of them work within the law. Not all of them will work within the law, but this takes away the myth that they are corrupt. However, too much interest group influence (money) may possibly lead to administrative corruption or favoring particular interest groups at the hand of public interest. Transparency is important to ensure that policy-makers do not give special treatment for specific interest groups. To insure there is transparency throughout, the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 forces the organizations to put forth information: “their identities and of their organizations, identities and business addresses of clients, issues lobbied on” (Hollen).
As Hillary Clinton once said, “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion”. Interest groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and many others try every day to influence governmental decisions and help those in their specific interest groups. Interest groups “the like the proverbial concept of beauty, an interest group’s ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ is in the eye of the beholder (Gitelson 312). Interest groups help those through their cause giving voice to those who are voiceless.
Gitelson, Alan R. et al. “Chapter 9: Interest Groups.” American Government: Myths and Realities.
HOLLEN:, By Mr. VAN. “Disclosure Act.” Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/430.
“NARAL Pro-Choice America Fact Sheet – Research, Statistics, and History on Abortion &Amp; Human Rights.” Research Statistics and History on Abortion Human Rights, http://liveaction.org/research/naral-pro-choice-america-factsheet.