Interest groups, also referred to as: special interests, pressure groups, organized interests, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), political groups, lobby groups and public interest groups, are organized collections of people or organizations whose goal is to influence public policy (511). ‘Interest groups’ is a term that encompasses a variety of organized groups including public interest groups, business and economic groups, governmental unites, and political action committees(512). Through lobbying, interest groups prove useful in increasing public awareness about important issues, helping to frame the public agenda, and monitor programs to guarantee effective implementation.
Interest groups exist for nearly every type of person who is willing to work together with others who share their goals. Interest groups that define themselves as ‘public interest groups’ seek a collective good, the achievement of which will not selectively and materially benefit the membership or activists of the organization(512). Today we see examples of this in civil liberties groups, environmental groups, and groups that speak for those who cannot (children, the mentally ill, or animals (512). ‘Economic interest groups’ have the goal of promoting the economic interest of their members, for example, trade and professional groups (513). ‘Governmental units’ are the state and local governments that lobby the federal government to make decisions in their favor. Mostly, these state and local governments are lobbying to attain ‘earmarks’ or funding from the federal budget that an appropriations bill designates for specific projects within a state or congressional district (513). In 1974, after amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, it became legal for these interest groups to form political action committees (PACs), or officially registered fund raising organization that represents interest groups in the political process. Unlike