Interest Group Profile: The Internal Politics of Organized Interests

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One of our three primary course objectives this semester is to focus each of you on developing an in-dept profile on a single interest group, from its organization, engagement in electoral activities, source of contributions to political campaigns and elected officials, and lobbying influence on key contemporary public policy issues.


In this first paper, you will provide a profile of your chosen interest group and report in a short no less than 5-page paper that provides a broad overview of your group.


Task1: Choose an interest group to profile whose interests are tied into one of the public policy issue areas under scrutiny.  You have already chosen an interest group to study, but you must now delve deeper into its character through examination of its mission, membership, and political activities

Task 2:  In this first paper, you should provide a broad profile and structure of the group’s purpose and mission.  In subsequent papers, focus will shift more towards specific public policy issues your group seeks to influence, how it involves itself in political campaign strategy and key policy issues, voter mobilization, advertising, polling, media, and campaign financing.

Questions/Items to Address. In this paper your interest group profile should seek to address the following questions and items, many which have been discussed in our early lectures:

  • Typology.  What type of interest group is this? A member organization? A business or trade association? A member union? A public interest organization?  Be sure to clearly identify the main purpose of the group.
  • Primary Mission. For what specific purpose does the organization exist? Why do they exist?  This is important to get a sense of mission, which could be multi-purpose or single issue-oriented. On what is the chief “special interest(s)” is your group focused?
  • Legal/Tax Status. Most organization are categorized with a legal status, usually associated with the Internal Revenue Service code for taxation or non-profit purposes. This status also determines within what boundaries your organization can legally operate and legal restrictions on activities such as member services, direct or indirect lobbying, and political contributions of either a disclosed or undisclosed nature.
  • Affiliated Organizations. The interest group chosen may have affiliated or subsidiary organizations. What are these and what are their legal tax status?  Do these organizations allow the “parent” organization to expand its activities beyond its primary mission or purpose? Or perhaps your chosen organization is affiliated with a larger “parent” organization?
  • Fundraising and/or Charitable Activities. Most interested groups are categorized as non-profit organizations, for which donations to them are tax deductible. Some organizations, “dues” are not usually tax deductible While they may accept donations, do they also provide them? To what types of other groups? For what purposes? Does the organization disclose its donors to the public? If not, why not?
  • Annual Operating Budget/Activities.  What does the recent budget profile look like?  How and on what does the group spend its money? What lobbying activities and methods does it most typically employ?  Is the spending profile even or uneven (reflecting perhaps cyclical activities, such as involvement in election cycles? Has the organization recently experience a sharp increase or decrease in operating budgets, reflecting a spike in either new members or expansion of mission or interests?
  • Political Giving/Political Action Committees (PACs). Does your group have a PAC, or perhaps ARE they a PAC for another ‘parent’ organization?  What are their major political donations? Does these reflect a partisan or more bi-partisan pattern of contributions? Do they get involved in political party primaries or only give in the general election? Do you believe this group was a major factor (they may even brag about this) in determining whether a party candidate won their party nomination or the general election?
  • Interest Group Coalitions. In the past what kind of coalitions has your group joined (with other interest groups) as part of a strategy in influence either legislation, regulation or a major legal case before the courts? Be sure to identify the key coalition partners.

Grading Rubric.  You will receive a letter grade for this assignment, which is 5% of your total course grade. You will be evaluated on how well you address the specific questions and issues in this prompt, and how you apply newly acquired knowledge, analytical tools and skills learned in this course.  The grade is on a 100-point scale, with 90 points awarded for how you address the prompt questions; approximately 5 points of your score will be based on documenting your sources and proper citation format (use the APA Manual of Style citation guide), and 5 points based on writing mechanics.

Format. A minimum of 5 Pages (max. 8), double-spaced, 12-point font and reasonable margins; use APA style.

Due.   No later than the start of class on Friday, February 26th, delivered via the course’s Blackboard Assignment folder.


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