Analysis of Interest Groups
In every government, groups exist that link the citizens to their respective governments by acting as intermediaries, for instance, political parties and interest groups. The only difference between the two is that interest groups do not vie for elective positions. According to Ainsworth, 2002, such groups are referred to as interest groups, and present the group members’ demands to the government with an aim at influencing the policies to function in their favor. Generally, the influences may be in respect to; funding, loans, and laws, among others (Birnbaum, 1993). The groups can exist as either joint associations, single entities, or through individual membership, and can either fall under the category of economic, social, religious, academic or political interest groups. As indicated, the groups are very many, but seem to serve the same purpose of influencing the sitting President’s administration’s policies to function in their favor (Schlozman, 1986). This commonality can be used to argue that an analysis of a single interest group, may present similar characteristics to all existing interest groups. This paper presents a detailed analysis of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) interest group as well as what researchers present about all interest groups in general, hence presenting the descriptive aspect without basing on the prescriptive aspect.
Founded in the year 2004, Americans for Prosperity, formerly known as Citizens for a Sound Economy, is a non-profit economic and political advocacy interest group based in Virginia Arlington. The group has a membership of about 2.4 million people, with Phillips Tim as its President. The group is an establishment of the Koch Brothers; Charles and David, primarily viewed as a political operation, but currently as one among the influential groups in the United States. The group serves the purposes of citizen mobilization to act in public policy processes, and education of the citizens about the economic policy (American for Prosperity, 2015). Through its outlined purposes, the group aims at fighting the high rates of taxation, and most significantly is its fight to end the Obamacare.
One of the most recent events undertaken by the group is the Reform America 2015 Agenda that was launched on the 15th January 2015 press conference. According to the Agenda’s website, the reform is a continuation of the rebuke of President’s big-governmental agenda; Obamacare, that was started in back in November 2014 (ReformsAmerica, 2015). In addition, the 2015 Reforms Agenda aims at improving the lives of American citizens instead of dwelling on political victories, by advocating and developing policies that place the economic key on the hands of the individuals and their families. In the words of the group’s President Phillips Tim, the group aims at having an infrastructure on the ground that would give teeth to the policy pronouncements.
The Reforms Agenda that has currently been made available online is pillared on the proposed fixes to Obamacare. Analysts of the group argue that the ground attempts at tax reduction in all sectors affecting the lives of the American citizens. The call to fix Obamacare arises from the proposed taxing that would see the wealthy Americans taxed higher, to cater for medical expenses of the poor. The group, advocating reduction of taxation rate evidently would not embrace a policy or agenda that aims at contradicting their purpose. In addition, the launched reform agenda will aim at fixing the energy economy perceived by the advocates to be distorted, and Congress’ Complex Tax-and-Spend Budget. The American Reform Agenda 2015, in the words of its chief executive officer, Hilgemann Luke, ‘we (meaning Americans), need to access energy at lower costs, better healthcare systems, and putting a stop to over-spending in Washington, what AFP calls an out-of-control spending’ (ReformsAmerica, 2015). In summary, the Launched Reforms America 2015, aims at influencing President Obama’s administration to prioritize 3 key policies namely; healthcare, taxes, and energy through the use of activism physically and on media platforms. The AFP group does not only base on the launched Reforms Agenda, but also annual summits across the different states of America. 2015, in the month of August for instance, scheduled for Columbus.
In the sector of healthcare, the agenda aims at repealing the medical device tax, repealing the Obamacare, and restoration of the forty-hour week of work. On taxation, the group advocates returning to the regular budget order, repealing the death tax, and bringing home the American Profits. On Energy, the AFP aims at repealing the bans that the government has placed exportation of oil, fighting the regulations of EPA perceived to be burdensome, fighting the hiking taxation on gas, and approving Keystone XL Pipeline.
The United States’ federal gas tax sitting at a maintained rate of 18.4% from 1993 to date is used by the US to finance Highway Trust Fund that pays for bridges and roads. On 28th February, 2015, Americans for Prosperity together with other interest groups not in support of President Obama’s Administrative policies and government addressed a letter to the congress in opposition to the proposed raise of the gas tax. The raise was seen by its proponents as a small price to give in exchange of a good highway, rated as best in the world. Several reactions arose in relation to the letter derived from perceptions of anti- and pro-government individuals, for instance, the view that the move is a blocking stone or barrier to public investments in the infrastructures of the nation by pro-governments, and the burden on the poor, by anti-governments (Ainsworth, 2002). In addition to blocking the gas tax, the initiative also called for ending of all funding on walking, public transit, and biking, under the claim that they were looking out for the interests of the poor. The claim as it appears on the letter is that, higher gas taxation rates will translate to higher prices on services and good throughout the economy and not the as alone. The letter was also written as a critic to Washington on the fact that it spent dollars on the projects which have nothing to do with roads like transits and bike paths (AFP Website, 2015). Composed of the billionaire individuals with the affordability to purchase cars, reactions have arisen that the letter was a service to personal interest of car owners disregarding the fact that the poor who they claim to represent, use such alternative means for transportation. The statement is just but an opinion of a group as everybody is entitled to their opinion.
The letter’s ability to influence President Obama’s policy was evident when the White House Press announced that the President’s budget plan would have nothing to do with a tax on gas. Alternatively, the budget plan would aim at raising money from a one-time taxation on profits that have been amassed by US corporations that are overseas, and then use it for funding transportation projects (AFP Website, 2015).
The above analysis on Americans for Prosperity presents a picture of Interest groups in America that can be well used to understand the operations, interactions with federal administrations and representatives, funding, ways through which they affect policies and policies change, law enactments, and enforcement of laws. According to the categories of interest groups, the AFP fall under the Public Interest Group that works for the common good concepts in their perceptions such as the family, human rights, and the consumers (Ainsworth, 2002). The AFP group meets the description because it claims to represent the poor people and the taxation on what they consume, hence representing the poor family and the gas consumers, for instance.
A major characteristic or operation mode of all interest group irrespective of the category is the lobbying aspect (Truman, 1971). Lobbyists in an interest group tend to influence the people through several means. Their influences are aimed at prompting people and the relevant authorities to actions aimed at change in the desired directions. The AFP meets the description or characteristic of all interest groups of lobbying in the letter addressed to the congress example above through which they were able to influence the government to develop different policies of seeking alternative funding sources for public transits other than increase in the gas tax. Due to technology and the rampant use of social media, the interest groups are calling for membership by presenting their ideologies and policies advocacies on their pages on the social media platforms. The membership is voluntary across several interest groups with relative qualifications. The AFP has a facebook page and a twitter handle to that effect.
The use of social media activism, summits and conferences is one of the characteristic through which the interest groups call for their desired enactments and enforcement of laws and regulations, or changes of government policies deemed undesired by them. Some interest groups also take to the streets to demonstrate against what the groups they represent view as undesired (Birnbaum, 1993). The AFP calls for the attendance of their summits and memberships, alongside following on facebook and twitter; platforms through which they reach and attract people.
Every lobby or interest group must have a funding source and a defined interaction with the federal administration and representatives. The AFP acquires its main source of funding through the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, in addition to others interested in funding the policies campaigned for by the group. Alternatively, they group may be influential by investing a large amount in politics. The groups have a tendency of funding political leaders who once elected into office will go and serve the interest of the group Salisbury, 1996). They, therefore, share a common characteristic of funding political leaders to office in exchange of serving their interests.
Interest groups act as intermediaries between citizens and the government differing from the political parties on the fact that they do not vie for elective positions. One example of an interest group is the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) that is a public interest group founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The group lobbies for three main things on behalf of the citizens; healthcare, taxation, and energy. The main current event of the group was the letter to the congress on 28th of February 2015, opposing an increase of tax on gas for improvement on infrastructure. Like any other interest group, the group has means of lobbying, funding, operation, interaction with representatives and federal administrations, and means of affecting policy changes, enactment and enforcement of laws.
Ainsworth Scott H, Analyzing Interest Groups: Groups Influences on People and Policies, W. W. Norton, New York, 2002.
Salisbury Robert, Exchange Theory of Interest Groups, Midwest Journal of political Science, 1996, Vol. 13: pp. 1-32
Americans for Prosperity, Homepage, 2015, retrieved from, http://americansforprosperity.org/
Schlozman Lehman Kay, et al, Organized Interests and American Democracy, Harper and Row, New York, 1986
Birnbaum Jeffrey, Lobbyists: How the Influence Peddlers Work their Ways in Washington, Times Books, New York, 1993
Truman David, Governmental Process: The Political Interests and Public Opinions, 2nd edition, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1971.