Interest groups and lobbying | Political participation | US government and civics | Khan Academy

Interest groups and lobbying | Political participation | US government and civics | Khan Academy

– [Instructor] Let’s
discuss interest groups and as you can see here, it
is one of the three parts of the iron triangle that we first studied when we looked at the bureaucracy
in the executive branch. And the whole point of the
iron triangle is to show how these different parties
can influence each other. And so just as a reminder,
an interest group is any collection of folks who organize in order to advocate for
something in public policy. This could be groups of corporations. It could represent an industry. It could represent a social cause. And we’re going to look at
some major interest groups in the United States in a few minutes, but some can be quite large
and some can be quite small. But what you see from the iron triangle is how these parties can
influence each other. An interest group can
give electoral support to a member of Congress
by getting its members to go out and vote for
that member of Congress, or maybe even doing advertising
for that member of Congress or giving direct financial support. In exchange, they might
get friendly legislation and oversight, and that’ll happen because a congressperson
who got that support from the interest group
might have a friendly ear to that interest group and might be open to hanging out with lobbyists
from that interest group. The term lobbyist, or lobbying
is believed to originate in 17th century England where people who wanted to influence
members of Parliament would hang out in the lobby
of the parliamentary building waiting to talk to those
members of Parliament. And that’s what essentially
lobbyists do today. They try to meet with congresspeople or meet with the staff of congresspeople and try to influence the types of bills that are introduced to
Congress for consideration and how various members
should vote for those bills. Now bureaucracy, these are the folks who for the most part are doing the work of actually running the government and they have influence
and they can dictate what regulations are going to be, who gets various contracts,
and so you can imagine that might be of interest
to interest groups. Now to make tangible what some
of these interest groups are, you have entities like the AFL-CIO, which stands for the
American Federation of Labor, Congress of Industrial Organizations. And this is a meta organization
of a bunch of labor unions and as you can imagine
they are going to advocate for labor-friendly policies. It might be things that favor
the manufacturing industry or that favor employees’ rights
to collectively negotiate with their employer. It might be advocating for trade policies, which would be perceived as more friendly to the American worker. Its membership is roughly
12.5 million people and so just getting them out to vote can have a significant
influence on elections. You have groups like the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce and what’s interesting
here, this membership of over 300,000, this
isn’t just individuals. This includes corporations. Even though the Chamber of Commerce does not have the biggest
budget of the groups we’re gonna look at, it
is actually consistently the biggest lobbying group, spending most of this money on lobbying. And they’re going to try to advocate for business-friendly
policies in our government. You have groups that
advocate for social causes like the NAACP, they
don’t have a huge budget but they are considered
very, very influential when it comes to issues
surrounding minority rights. You also have very influential groups like the National Rifle Association. And when we compare the NRA
to some of these other groups it’s interesting to think
about the number of issues they concentrate their efforts on. For example, the Chamber of Commerce might be thinking about a very broad array of policy decisions that
might affect commerce, that might affect businesses, while the National Rifle
Association and its members, and this is a significant membership here, is likely to be much more
focused on a narrower set of issues around gun
rights and gun ownership. You have the American Medical Association, which despite its relatively
small membership here is highly, highly influential
because these 240,000 people are for the most part physicians, who many of us are very
used to listening to. You have the American Association
for Retired Professionals which has a membership
of 37 million people and a budget of 1.6 billion. So these entities can be very large and very, very influential. Now as I mentioned, not
all of these dollars go directly to lobbying. They could be spending
money on voter education. They could be spending
money on legal funds to advocate for cases that
are in their interest. They could be giving direct support to various candidates
or to various parties. They could be advertising in
the media for their cause. But if we think about directly lobbying, this chart right over
here is quite interesting. It comes from
and if you’re really intrigued by understanding more of
how money and influence come together in American politics I encourage you to go to their site. But this is a list in
2017 of the top spenders in lobbying in the United
States, and as I mentioned you see here at the top the
U.S. Chamber of Commerce at $82 million, and
this isn’t even the most they’ve ever spent in a year. There’s some years where it
is well over $150 million that they’ve spent. The National Association of Realtors, the Business Roundtable,
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. And this money is, for the
most part, to pay lobbyists who will meet with
members of our government to directly advocate for certain policies. Now an interesting thing to think about is what positive things might
be done by interest groups, and what potentially negative
things might be there and how equitable is this system? The positive things, folks
could argue, are hey, they could work on voter education. Many issues that policy
makers are trying to decide on are quite complex, so it might be good to have experts weighing
in, but on the other hand, it might seem like money is
disproportionately influential and that industries that
generate a lot of money could have a disproportionate
amount of influence and they could potentially
use that influence to further benefit those industries to give them even more
power and influence. So I will let you decide.


  1. Funny how the nra doesn't even make the naughty list, yet we're led to believe that they're the number one contributor.
    What's probably more useful is to see how many of these donations actually CHANGED a politician's stance on an issue vs what issue they already supported. (that would be a potential indicator of money affecting a political figure)

  2. What in the hell is ARRP doing with all that money?  It sure in the hell isn't helping retired people.  Mostly promoting celebrities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *