Special Interests in Politics
“Special interests” are often viewed as agents of corruption and make easy scapegoats for anything that goes wrong in government. But interest groups – corporations, charities, citizen groups, and trade associations – also have the potential to represent ideas and provide information to policymakers. While the lobbying activities of these organizations sometimes introduce bias into governmental decision making, simply outlawing them would not be an improvement. In the words of James Madison, the cure would be worse than the disease.
Beth Leech is a professor of Political Science at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on non-governmental institutions -- interest groups, social movements, and the news media -- and the roles they play in representation and policymaking.
Her newest project, Agendas and Interest Groups, is a three-year, four-country study that compares the policy concerns of interest groups with those of the general public. Funded through the European Commission's Open Research Areas program, the $1.6 million project examines policies in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Dr. Leech is the co-editor of the journal Interest Groups & Advocacy, and the author or co-author of the books Basic Interests, Meeting at Grand Central, Lobbying and Policy Change, and Lobbyists at Work, as well as numerous articles and book chapters.
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