Department of Political Science

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POSC 306

SPRING, 2005

Professor Joe White 216-368-2426 (office)
113 Mather House
POSC 306/406
216-514-8337 (home)
M/W: 1:00 -2:30
Mondays, 5:30 – 8:00 and by appointment
Mather Memorial 225


This course covers the field of interest groups with particular reference to how groups attempt to influence, and are influenced by, the public policy process. It differs from traditional policy process courses in putting more emphasis on the process as an opportunity and constraint upon particular interests. It differs from traditional interest group courses in putting less emphasis on evaluation of interest groups as a “good” or “bad” part of politics, and more on the variety of ways that groups can try to influence events. What can groups do to influence policy choices? Different groups with different kinds of resources may follow different strategies and tactics. These different group resources then may be a basis for the students’ own evaluations.

This course is mostly taught with, but not formally co-listed with, MAND 406, “Nonprofit Social Policy and Advocacy,” a course for students in the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations’ Masters degree program. Therefore its material will include some special emphasis, but hardly sole emphasis, on the concerns and resources of nonprofit organizations, to the extent those can be distinguished from the concerns of other organizations. Worries about tax deductibility, in particular, cause some managers of nonprofit organizations to worry that they cannot advocate as explicitly as can corporations, unions, and other well-known interests. Yet in the United States there are so many forms of nonprofit organizations, with so many different interests, that much of the standard literature applies equally well to them.

The course schedule is also affected by the participation of the Mandel Center students. Operating under Weatherhead School of Management rules, their normal class period is two hours. Therefore this class will meet in two segments. The first segment, from 5:30 until 6:00, will be a separate discussion section for Arts and Sciences students, both graduate and undergraduate. Then, at 6:00 p.m., we will be joined by the Mandel Center students. POSC 306/406 students are encouraged to participate fully throughout the full class session. Judging from when this class was taught in Spring 2003, the inconveniences of this arrangement are fairly easy to manage.


All students will need to read most or all of four required texts. They include a short, web-available text on lobbying for the nonprofit sector; an overview text about lobbying state governments; a collection of articles about interest groups and the national government; and a case study of policymaking in one area, improving treatments for breast cancer. The three printed texts should be available for purchase from the university bookstore, and if you can find them more cheaply in other ways, that’s fine too:

Alan Rosenthal, The Third House: Lobbyists and Lobbying in the States 2nd edition. 2001 CQ Press

Paul S. Herrnson, Ronald G. Shaiko, and Clyde Wilcox eds., The Interest Group Connection: Electioneering, Lobbying, and Policymaking in Washington 2nd edition. 2004. CQ Press

Maureen H. Casamayou, The Politics of Breast Cancer. 2001 University of Pittsburgh Press

The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide, 2nd ed., by Bob Smucker (Independent Sector, 1999) can be found by going to the following website:

A few further required readings will be available on hardcopy reserve at the university library.They will be reserved under the MAND 406 course number. I will also submit them for the electronic reserves. In addition, I have drafted some summaries of perspectives on both interest groups and policymaking, and those summaries will be posted on the course website.


In accord with university regulations, requirements for undergraduate (POSC 306) and graduate (POSC 406) students will be somewhat different. Requirements for POSC 406 students are essentially the same as for MAND 406 students, save that the former must attend the longer class sessions.

1) Supplementary Reading Reports: Each student will report on a supplementary reading that addresses the role of interest groups in policy-making. Written reports will be due in class on April 11.

1a) Graduate students’ reports should be between 2,500 and 3,000 words long. Each student will write a report that explains the basic issues raised and conclusions of the reading, and comment on how this material fits (e.g. confirms or seems to rebut) arguments made in the shared class material. They will join the Mandel Center students in choosing from the following list of books:

Jeffrey M. Berry, The New Liberalism: The Rising Power of Citizen Groups. Washington, DC: Brookings, 2000. ISBN 0815709072

Steven Epstein, Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. ISBN 0520214455

Allen D. Hertzke, Representing God in Washington: The Role of Religious Lobbies in the American Polity. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988. ISBN 0870495704

Douglas R. Imig, Poverty and Power: The Political Representation of Poor Americans. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996. ISBN 0803225008

Ronald T. Libby, Eco-Wars: Political Campaigns and Social Movements. New York: Columbia University Press. 1998. ISBN 0231113110

Michael D. Pertschuk, Smoke in Their Eyes: Lessons in Movement Leadership from the Tobacco Wars. 2001. University of Tennessee Press.

Robert J. Spitzer, The Politics of Gun Control 3rd ed. 2004. CQ Press

No more than seven students will be allowed to read the same book. All graduate students should make their selections by the third class session (January 31). Students’ selections will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students who select a book that has already been chosen by the maximum number of classmates will be required to choose some other reading, unless they can convince me that special circumstances apply. The reports will be due in class on April 11. Class sessions on April 18 and April 25 will include discussions of each book, in which the people who read the book will be expected to participate.

1b) Undergraduates will choose a case study from the John F. Kennedy School of Government Case Study Program. Instructions on how to find those cases are in the appendix to this syllabus. They will write 5-page reports, a minimum of 1250 words. Each report will explain the basic issue and interests involved; explain why, according to the reading, the case had the particular result that it did; and comment on how this case fits with the required reading for the course.

2) Strategy and Tactics Memoranda: In lieu of a final examination, each student will also prepare a memorandum to the leader of an organization. In this memorandum, the student should summarize the organization’s public policy environment and concerns, the resources the organization has with which to affect policies, and, on that basis, suggest strategies and tactics for the organization.

2a) By February 14, undergraduates should submit a one-page prospects identifying the organization for which they will write the memo and some sources they expect to consult. The final reports, due on May 2, should be no less than 2,500 words long.

2b) By February 14, graduate students will be required to prepare a preliminary report about the organization they have chosen. They should consult with the instructor about their choice of organization before beginning their research. This report should be six pages (1,500 words) long. The final reports, due by 5:00 p.m. on May 2, should be no less than 3,500 words long.

3) All students will also have four in-class quizzes on the readings. These quizzes will be given during the POSC discussion period, from 5:30 to 6:00, so be distributed at exactly 5:30 p.m..

Grading for Graduate Students

Supplemental Reading Report 20% Preliminary Memorandum 10%
Final Memorandum 35%
Quizzes 25%
Class Participation 10%

Grading for Undergraduates

Supplemental Reading Report 20%
Memorandum Project 40%
Quizzes 30%
Class Participation 10%

Reports will be penalized a grade for each day they are late. An extremely strong excuse for a missed quiz will allow a student to do a substantial make-up assignment. Otherwise, the grade for a missed quiz will be entered as an “F” in calculation of the overall grade for the quizzes as a whole.


You must document all sources you use in writing your papers according to an accepted style guide. A good standard approach is in the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), but any standard format will be fine for this class. Plagiarism of any form will be punished by referral to the appropriate university judicial proceedings, as well as by a failing grade in the assignment on which the plagiarism occurs. Plagiarism includes, according to the MLA Handbook (New York: MLA, 1988), two related activities: repeating “as your own someone else’s sentences, more or less verbatim,” and “paraphrasing another person’s argument as your own, and presenting another’s line of thinking as though it were your own.” Proper citation of sources will allow you to incorporate others’ analyses without committing plagiarism.


January 10: Introduction to class and each other. Students will be asked to speak about organizations for which they’ve worked or with which they’ve been involved, and the
relevance of public policy to those organizations as they see it. I will lecture about interest groups in general.

Reading: A longer version of my lecture will be made available on the course website, and should be read by all students by the following class session. It would of course be useful to have read it before this class.


January 24: Perspectives on Lobbying and Interest Groups. On the one hand, some people see groups as evil and others as necessary. On the other, some perspectives emphasize how groups try to influence government, while others emphasize groups’ need to know how government might affect them.

Reading: Smucker Chapters 1 & 2 and Part Three.
Herrnson et al. Chapter 1.
Rosenthal, Preface and Chapters 1-4.

January 31: The Structures of Policy-Making. We will consider the variety of arenas in which government decisions are made, and so the various situations in which
advocates might try to influence decisions. Each of these (for example, legislatures, bureaucracies, and courts) may call for different tactics and benefit groups with different

Reading: Second essay by instructor, on course website as “Mand406Models of Policy”;
Selections on Reserve from Paul A. Sabatier ed., Theories of the Policy Process: Chapter 2, “The Stages Approach to the Policy Process”; Chapter 4, “Ambiguity, Time, and Multiple Streams”; Chapter 6, “The Advocacy Coalition Framework.”

Assignment: Students Should Have Selected Their Supplementary Readings By This Date

February 7: Lobbying Methods. Or, advocacy from the lobbyist’s perspective. This includes resources, tactics, and norms.

Reading: Smucker Chapters 3-8, pp. 16-48; Rosenthal Chapters 5-9

February 14: Information in the policy process. One whole type of nonprofit organization, sometimes known as a “think tank,” seeks to provide information that will influence the policy process. Examples include the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Federation for Community Planning in Cleveland. All organizations seek to
influence policy choices by presenting information that supports their preferences.

Reading: R. Kent Weaver, Chapter 6, “The Role of Policy Research,” and Chapter 8, “Interest Groups and Welfare Reform,” from Weaver, Ending Welfare as We Know It (Brookings, 2000). These readings can be found online at 

Assignment: Prosepctuses (for undergraduates) and preliminary project memoranda (for graduate students) due at the beginning of class.

February 21: The Nitty Gritty. We will break the policy process into parts later in the course. Here we look at one particularly important part that combines executive and
legislative processes: budgeting. As a saying goes, “nothing happens without the money.” So budgeting can be central to all aspects of the policymaking process, especially implementation and modification.

Readings: Herrnson et al. Chapter 9; Jerry McCaffery, “Features of the Budgetary Process,” and Roy T. Meyers, “Strategies for Spending Advocates,” from Roy T. Meyers ed., Handbook of Government Budgeting (Jossey-Bass, 1999); Richard G. Sheridan, “Chapter 8: The Politics of Budgeting,” from Sheridan, Follow the Money: Ohio State Budgeting (Cleveland: Federation for Community Planning, 2000)

Assignment: Second Reading Quiz

February 28: A first case study. We will look at the subjects of processes of influence and group organization by looking at one case in depth. Please remember that this case may be a bit “biased” in the sense that most of the class will be disposed to see this particular set of interests as on the side of the angels.

Reading: Casamayou, The Politics of Breast Cancer


March 14: Influencing Elections (or, Don’t You Wish…). Most nonprofit organizations have little ability to influence elections. But that ability – or politicians’ perception of that ability – remains one of the fundamental forms of power in American politics. Optimists of a sort may think the size of a group’s membership matters most; pessimists of a sort may think financial resources matter far more. What, in fact, can groups do to influence elections?

Readings: Herrnson et al., Chapters 2-6.

Assignment: Third Reading Quiz

March 21: Influencing Legislation. Interest groups do make their case, but there are lots of other ways that they try to cause legislators to support them.

Readings: Herrnson et al., Chapters 7-8, 10-12

March 28: Influencing the Executive. In many cases, what matters is not what the law says but what the agencies of government do. So groups will lobby the executive
branch both to get it as an ally in legislative battles, and to attempt to shape the executive’s use of its own discretion.
Readings: Herrnson et al., Chapters 13-16

April 4: Influencing the Courts. Someone (I think it was Alexis de Tocqueville) once wrote that in America, all political questions ultimately become judicial ones. Certainly lots of policies end up in the courts, and a whole branch of advocacy, called public interest litigation, had evolved as a result.

Readings: Herrnson et al. Chapters 17-19.

Assignment: Fourth Reading Quiz

April 11: A Second Case Study: Child Policy. Guest speaker to be determined.

Readings: Material to be placed on reserve, to be announced.

Assignment: Reading reports due at the beginning of class.

***Instructor will announce which books will be discussed during which of the final two class sessions. Undergraduates should be prepared to discuss their case readings.

April 18: Graduate student presentations about outside readings

April 25: Continued presentations about outside readings and conclusion of class

Reading: Rosenthal, Chapter 10; Herrnson et al., Chapter 20.

May 2: Memorandum Project due to Professor White by 5 p.m. today.

ADDENDUM: Materials for Undergraduate Supplemental Reading Reports

Undergraduates will report on cases from the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Case Studies in Public Policy and Management. The case program’s website is

You should select a case that has particular reference to interest groups. Some events have been written up in multiple reports; in those cases, you will need to read all of the parts of the case. You will need to clear your selection with me, for two reasons: so that I can determine it is indeed appropriate, and so that I can buy a copy for myself to read. Examples of cases used when the class was taught before include:

Case # Title

1660.0   Fast Track Derailed: The 1997 Attempt to Renew Fast Track Trade Legislation

1541.0 and 1541.1    “No Prison in East L.A.!” Birth of a Grassroots Movement.

1429.0   Going Against the Grain: A ‘Conservative’ Think Tank in Massachusetts

1238.0   Emily’s List and Campaign Finance Reform

757.0   Restricting Traffic on Washington Street

557.0 and 558.0   Freezing the Arms Race: The Genesis of a Mass Movement and Freezing the Arms Race: The Campaign in Washington

1272.0   Wetlands Protection vs. Commercial Development: Sweeden’s Swamp.

429.0   Prohibition (A): Enactment

121.0 and 121.10   Central Utah Project (B) and Central Utah Project (Sequel)

141.0 and 142.0 and 142.1   Auto Safety (A), (B), and (Part B: Sequel)

Page last modified: February 9, 2015