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Special Interest Groups

Summary: 

With community comes special interest groups. It’s better to bring them to the surface and embrace them, while at the same time keeping a close eye on their machinations.

A political entrepreneur is an individual who seeks political and social gains in return for providing public goods to the unorganized general public. Public goods provided ... include foreign- and domestic-public policy changes, while the benefits the entrepreneur hopes to gain include voter support, public recognition, and personal popularity. Choi, Taewook (2004) "Promoting a Northeast Asia Economic Integration Policy", Korea Focus, May-April, 2004, vol. 12, no. 2. The quotation has been paraphrased for the sake of clarity.

We build community. And with communities come politicians and special interest groups to influence those politicians. Special Interest Groups band together to promote or protect their own narrow interests. Special Interest Groups are extra-agency entities, outside the agency but with the agency as their target. They want a bigger slice of the community pie. In exchange for greater power and tenure, politicians are often willing to deal.

Special Interest Groups can be a powerful force for building community. They break down larger issues of the community into bite-sized pieces, so time-constrained members can gain an expertise that can be put to practical use. They provide a creative outlet for ambitious political entrepreneurs and their followers, who otherwise might engage in political mischief. They get their members to the polls, tapping into the more intense passion of their members by placing issues or candidates of importance on the ballot. Interest groups serve as a conduit to the community bureaucrats, both as a check on their actions and as a way to build understanding and sympathy for their many challenges. In these and other ways special interest groups serve as a valuable counter-balance to complacency+ and apathy in the larger community. (See Table 1 for illustrative special interest groups)

Special Interest Groups can become too powerful. They engage in activities good for their members, but harmful to the larger community (e.g., mortgaging the future+ to reward members). They can build entrenched interests, passionate about their cause but blind to the needs of the larger community. They replace love of institution with baser instincts.

Table 1. Funding Agency Special Interest Groups. Special Interest Groups for the funding agency are divided into functional and organizational groupings. Functional groups focus on functions or activities routinely performed by the agency. Organizational groups represent the interests of the various natural groupings of investors found within our community.
Funding Agency Special Interest Groups
(Illustrative)

Functional

  • Search for new investments
  • Asset appraisals and fund valuation
  • Franchise operations+
  • Advancements+ for Franchisees
  • Research specialties

Organizational

  • Investees (franchisees)
  • Management
  • New vs. Old Investors
  • The Judiciary
  • Third Parties (e.g., Insurers)

Source: Keith Ortiz, All Rights Reserved (2011)

We embrace special interest groups. They seek private benefits and in exchange for their community-building work we provide (some of) these benefits. There are a host of ‘material benefits’ we could provide directly to our investors (Table 2), which instead we funnel through our officially-sanctioned special interest groups. We encourage outside interest groups to come inside and receive these material benefits for distribution to their members.

Table 2. Illustrative Membership Benefits. These are material benefits used to attract and retain investors into interest groups.
Membership Benefits
(Illustrative)
  • Networking At Social Functions
  • First in Line for Employment and Contracting
  • Participation In Governance Activities (e.g., Trial by Jury+)
  • Rewards for contributions to the Investible Units+ (e.g., website development)
  • Commission-free Trading
  • Tax Counseling
  • Ability to Earn Greater Financial Equity via a Point System

Source: Keith Ortiz, All Rights Reserved (2011)

A Thousand Subtle Means

We use the judiciary as a check on the power of special interest groups. Special Interest Groups are mostly indirect in their efforts to extract selfish material benefits. Interest Groups use a thousand subtle means to tilt the playing field in their favor (Table 3). Their primary goal, their raison d'être, is to set the agenda. These groups decide what other investors should consider important, what should fire their passions when they walk into the (virtual) voting booth.1

Our judiciary is wise to the wiles of special interest groups, keeps a sharp eye on their machinations, and adjusts voting constructs+ for both candidates and propositions should they sense interest groups have had too much influence in the wording of the vote. We keep the judicial team quite busy.2

Table 3. What Interest Groups Do. Interest groups do not ‘buy votes’. Instead they work in subtle ways to nudge the outcome of a vote to their favor. They either directly work with officials (e.g., setting overall agency agendas) or they attempt to sway officials using public pressure (e.g., protests or demonstrations).
What Interest Groups Do
(Illustrative)
  • Testify at hearings
  • Consult with officials or their subordinates to set overall agency agendas
  • Contact agency officials directly to present the constituency point of view
  • Attempt to shape implementation of agency policies
  • Present officials with research results or technical information (e.g., investor polling results)
  • Talk with people from the press and media (e.g., editors of the company Scandal Sheet+, host government media outlets)
  • Help to draft legislation, regulations, rules, voting propositions or guidelines
  • Alert agency officials or investors on how upcoming legislation will impact their interests
  • File suit or otherwise engage in litigation (e.g., in host country legal systems or via the company judicial function)
  • Make financial contributions to (re-)election campaigns for agency officials
  • Do small favors for agency officials (e.g., conduct mini-surveys of investor ‘hot buttons’)
  • Inspire e-mail or other online campaigns
  • Mount grassroots lobbying efforts (e.g., investors in-your-face)
  • Have influential constituents contact agency officials
  • Attempt to influence contract awards (e.g., 3rd party service providers)
  • Publicize agency management+ actions or stances on an issue
  • Contribute work or personnel to election campaigns for agency officials / board members
  • Make public endorsements of individuals for office
  • Organize protests or demonstrations
The best interest groups know how to selectively apply several of the above tactics for maximum synergistic effect. The really great interest groups know how to find common ground with other interest groups (e.g. horse trading) to multiply their influence for specific (narrow) issues.

Adapted from Schlozman, Kay Lehman and John T. Tierney. (1986). Organized Interests and American Democracy.

Special Interest Groups are viewed as a powerful force for the funding agency, for both good and bad. They lobby agency management and bureaucrats, campaign for issues in the ballot box, coordinate across agency boundaries, and leverage extra-agency entities (e.g., host government regulators) to influence funding agency policies. For example a special interest group dedicated to excellence in The Compulsories+ may seek out other firms or industries where this educational certification would be welcomed. We encourage the good and place checks on the bad. Overall we consider the influence of special interest groups to be positive. We provide both material and institutional support for their efforts. But we keep our hand on our wallet.


Editor's Picks for September, 2011

  • 1. To avoid the appearance of undue influence on the vote of an official, most interest groups focus instead on throttling the level of effort put into an issue by an official. Influence does not attempt to sway an official’s vote or push for rulings under the cover of darkness. Too obvious. Instead influence is subtle: getting officials to skip or to reschedule important meetings, to release position papers on an issue or not, etc. Officials are often rewarded by interest groups based on the outcome of a vote, and not for the official’s vote. This leaves open the means for officials to creatively (i.e., no fingerprints) sway the votes of their colleagues (e.g., ‘You rub my back…’). Losing voters / investors are unaware of the machinations and think they are just unlucky in choosing their sides.
  • 2. We also rely on dissenters+ to keep an eye on the machinations of each interest group.
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Reba Tull
Offline
Joined: 03/30/2011
Not enough time in the day

You’re asking investors to be better engaged in the activities of the funding agency+, and now you want them engaged in activities of special interest groups. This is an investment, not a career. Individuals will not take the time required to develop needed expertise as outlined in this article. Political entrepreneurs will co-opt these groups for their own personal enrichment.