Your government is at the service of those who can afford access to its services:

While the above graphic representation is an idealized version of the "iron triangle" of "cozy interests" suggesting any constituent may influence the legislative, regulatory and administrative framework, in reality the constituents take their place in line to influence policy decisions.

Mark Twain | One | Two | diagram | agency capture | summary


Mark Twain, or Samuel L. Clemens remarked in the "Gilded Age" that:

"We have the best Congress, money can buy."

"Money is the mother's milk of politics."

The California Speaker of the State Assembly (lower House) Jesse Unruh,

1. In influencing policy, actual voters are more important than "quiet" constituents:

The Constitution of 1789 has placed policy making in the hands of two branches of the federal government and most state's do the same.

Article I : Congress
Article II: Executive
voters are a select subset of constituents.

"we the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..."

Note above the apex is reversed, voters are a select subset of constituents.

One | Two | diagram | agency capture | summary

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2. Constituents can be either:

3. As suggested by the Advocacy course participants, the line formed by corporate lobbyists, NGOs or non governmental organizations and interest groups guarantees access to donors, contributors, paid agents and industrial associations, long before citizens get a chance to influence the decision making process.

One | Two | diagram | agency capture | summary


4. Even more importantly, Washington D.C. based lobbying organizations have greater access to Congress, than do nonprofit organizations.

Hierarchy of Interests
Executive Branch Departments & Bureaus
Corporations: General Electric, Haliburton, Raytheon,Kerr Mcgee.
Department of Defense
Corporate NGOs: NAM; National Association of Manufacturers.
Department of Justice
Corporate & mixed NGOs: Farm Bureau.
Department of Agriculture
nonprofit, non corporate NGOs. World Wildlife Fund - US.
Department of Interior


One | Two | diagram | agency capture | summary

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5. As depicted above in the table the greater the stake a player has in the outcome of decision making for policies,and the greater presence they can afford to invest in on lobbyists, the better the chances that interest has on framing issues and developing legislation.

Take for example the tax policy ( such as Brokerage firms on Wall Street), or weapon's procurement and hence Defense spending, or health care (Insurance, Pharmaceutical and the AMA, American Medical Association); each of these matter will pull influential and well financed "interests" into the policy making triangle in an effort to protect their existing condition. The existing condition is called the status quo.

One | Two | diagram | agency capture | summary


6. As discussed in class, the environmental protection movement has been relegated to insignificance in policy making circles due to:

  1. They openly supported losing candidates.
  2. Have insufficient corporate sponsorship.
  3. Lack the funds to lobby as effectively as they might otherwise.
  4. Shift in national priorities since 2001.
  5. Competing matters of allegedly greater concern to the electorate.
  6. Inability to articulate a clear and meaningful message that resonates with voters.
  7. Elitist focus on matters of concern to upper income voters.
  8. Generally, feel good, "motherhood" issues with wide, but not deep support in the community.

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7. This means that the following organizations, representative of environmental advocacy interest groups, have less clout today in Washington than at any time in the nation's history, since 1901.


One | Two | diagram | agency capture | summary

book William Greider, Who Will Tell the People



Congressional Research Service

Congressional Quarterly Service

National Council for Science and the Environment

Population Reference Bureau graphics

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Last Updated on 10-18-2007 .

By Joseph Siry

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