What effects do special interest groups have on the executive branch of government?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Special interest groups can affect the executive branch in a number of ways.  Some of these effects are felt at the higher levels of the executive branch and some at the lower levels.

At the higher levels of the executive branch, interest groups lobby officials just as they do Congress.  They try to get high officials to promote and support their interests.  They also try to influence the higher levels of the executive branch to do things like appointing cabinet officials, judges, and others who share their beliefs.

Perhaps the most famous way that interest groups can affect the executive branch comes at somewhat lower levels.  This effect is felt through the “iron triangles” that can form between bureaucratic agencies (part of the executive branch), the interest groups, and the Congressional committees that oversee the agencies.  In this arrangement, the interest groups can have a great deal of influence over the executive branch agencies that are supposed to be regulating them.  This happens because the interest groups are more interested than anyone else in what the agency is doing.  The interest group will put its resources into trying to lobby the members of the agency and the members of the Congressional committees that oversee it. For example, you can imagine that farm groups are much more interested than anyone else in agencies that regulate agriculture.  They will try very hard to lobby those agencies to make regulations that the farmers like.  They will also lobby members of Congress from farm districts and ask them to pressure the agencies. In these ways, interest groups can sometimes gain so much influence over the agencies that they are said to have “captured” them.  In such a case, the interest group can practically dictate to the agency and the agency tends to work to support the interest group rather than regulating it.

These are the most common ways in which special interest groups can affect the legislative branch of the US government.

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