Pressure groups have had to target government bureaucracy in America. Many day-to-day decisions are made by bureaucrats, by Departments of State and regulatory commissions. Pressure groups, therefore, are concerned that their views are represented at this level. Bureaucrats can also make use of the knowledge pressure groups might have on an issue that they represent especially if one government agency is in dispute with another. To gain influence in government bureaucracy, pressure groups have adopted a number of methods:
Pressure groups might seek to influence political appointments. A number of President Bush’s current cabinet are known to favour relaxing environmental rules and regulations concerning opening up areas such as nature reserves etc. The appointment of Christine Todd-Whitman as Environment Secretary did not enthuse environmentalists though there is no evidence that she was appointed as a result of pressure group activity. John Ashcroft (Attorney-General) and Tommy Thompson (Health) are both opposed to abortion and their appointment would have pleased the more and more politically powerful anti-abortion lobby though, again, there is no evidence that pressure group activity lead to their appointment.
Pressure groups seek to become part of the bureaucratic process in that bureaucrats need information on many issues and they can therefore direct their questions to those who would know the answers to them.
Pressure groups will also try to gain access to policy planning groups in order to help shape future government proposals.
Those in pressure groups who have expert knowledge on certain issues will try to maintain close personal contact with key members of the Federal government so that they might effectively become part of a group who are consulted on policy issues.
Pressure groups might also support government programmes in which they do not have a direct interest so that they can gain some credit within the Federal government for the passage of an act and hope to gain support for what they believe in at a later date.
A close relationship with the Federal government’s bureaucracy is often argued to be the most important dimension of a pressure group’s work. If successful in this area, a pressure group might end up helping to shape future government initiatives.
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