PLSC 083 Lobbying the Federal Government


November 5, 2001


Readings: Wolpe and Levine, Ch. 6-9


Notes about your upcoming papers. These require two things: A discussion of whether the theories you discussed need to be revised, and a discussion of the normative conclusions you can reach based on your study. That is, were the appropriate stake-holders present and active in participating in government decision-making, or were important groups absent? If they were present, were their views taken into consideration? If the issue was highly partisan, was that a help or a hindrance in representing the public interest? Here, at the end of your paper you should reach some conclusions about whether the process you observed was democratically justifiable and accurately reflective of public concerns. Should we be pleased with what we observed, or does it indicate a serious problem in democratic practice? (NOTE: your normative conclusions should be on the topic of WHO PARTICIPATED not on the topic of what got decided. Different people can disagree about whether OSHA’s regulations are good or bad, for example. The question on the table here is whether the process was democratic or not.)


Wolpe and Levine, last chapters of Part 1:


Lobbying the executive


Note the large number of civil servants and the information advantage that they typically have over Congress, political appointees, and interest groups themselves. Lobbying these people is quite different than lobbying members of congress.


Note the different roles of political appointees in the executive branch and the civil service.


Note the different perspectives of executive branch officials, representing the entire country, and members of Congress who have more narrow constituencies.


Grassroots lobbying v. Astroturf lobbying. Note the rise in public relations firms offering mobilization campaigns for a price. Discussion of which comes first: the social movement (true grass roots) or the social movement organization (SMO; otherwise known as an interest group). Once the interest group is established, it is easier for them to continue to mobilize that constituency. Some interest groups were established originally from social movements, but in fact studies indicate that only about 25% of groups come from social movements. About 75% of groups come from business, the professions, and institutions. These things make it seem that a lot of grassroots may not truly be spontaneous, but rather reflects the distribution of Washington groups that have the capacity to mobilize their members more than the number of Americans who may be upset or concerned with a given policy. Note how businesses themselves can mobilize their members. Grassroots lobbying can be very expensive and difficult to coordinate. Though it is usually seen as a “weapon of the weak” it certainly can be used by the powerful as well.