Analyzing the Evidence Exercises

Interest groups play an influential role in American policy making. They directly lobby members of Congress, the president, and the executive branch with the goal of advancing those policies they favor and blocking those they oppose. In fact, policy makers often rely on the expert information provided by professional lobbyists. Interest groups also try to influence government through the electoral process. One tool for doing so is campaign contributions. When a group contributes to a candidate’s election or to an elected official’s political action committee (many members of Congress now bundle contributions in “leadership PACs” that they then use to help their colleagues), that can translate into keeping one’s friends in office and cultivating access on Capitol Hill.

While there is very little evidence that contributions of this sort, which are limited by law to relatively small amounts, “buy” votes in Congress, the appearance of impropriety and the imbalance of interests among those sectors engaging in lobbying and making contributions has led to regulation. This figure from the Analyzing the Evidence unit shows the representation of various types of interests among registered lobbyists.

Types of Interest Groups Registered to Lobby

What segment of society is most well-represented in the lobbying world?
What are some types of groups that have comparatively less representation?
Describe one or more reasons that may account for this imbalance.
Lobbying is only part of the equation, however. Some groups pursue “outsider” strategies in the hopes of affecting the composition of Congress and thereby winning the policy battle by choosing the right policy makers. The Center for Responsive Politics tracks campaign contributions on its website Identify the five leading industries contributing to the following congressional leaders:
4a. Senate Majority Leader
4b. Senate Minority Leader
Now search the Database for your own representative’s “Member Profile” for the most current year. If you do not know your Representative’s name, you can enter your zip code here to find it.
5. How are the contributions received by your House member different from those of the Senate leaders in amount, source, proportion from PACs, and so forth?
What is one hypothesis you might offer for the difference?

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