Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on organized interests; their role in Texas and the ways in which they seek to influence policy within the state.

An organized interest is any organization that attempts to influence public policy decisions. Some organized interests are not just groups of individuals, but rather systematic efforts aimed at influencing the political process. Some interests are more organized than others. Organized interests in Texas benefit from the part-time nature of Texas government. The short 140-day legislative session and part-time nature of executive administration create a need for information to make decisions, and interest groups and their representatives are quite willing to provide it. Interest groups have filled the vacuum left by a lack of partisan competition in the Lone Star State, as intergroup battles have largely replaced interparty fighting.

There are many organized interests in Texas that influence policymaking. Economic interests include corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and professional associations that pursue economic benefits for their members. Noneconomic interests include public interest groups--many of them single-issue groups--that pursue collective goods to be enjoyed by all of society. Groups engage in public education, electioneering, and lobbying to affect the political process. These efforts can involve the greater public, but often public support for a group’s goals is illusory. Pluralism is the ideal that more groups lead to greater representation of public sentiment, but some assert that we experience hyperpluralism, where the intense fighting among narrowly focused interests prevents the formation of sound policy.