Which lobbying group has the most influence?

Although immigration reform is dead this year, many reform advocates are still campaigning to promote legislative action on the issue. In class, we discussed three different types of groups that attempt to lobby congress: business groups, citizens groups, and governmental groups. All three lobby groups have been very active throughout the immigration reform debate. However, which group will have the most influence on Congress and push them to create reform?

 Business groups have been speaking directly to members of Congress to convince Republican lawmakers to support a reform bill by talking about the economic benefits. Businesses depend on immigrants to bring cheap labor and innovation to the U.S. economy. In early November, Obama asked big businesses to help him develop strategies to encourage resistant lawmakers to pursue reform. Even the President noticed the potential influence that businesses have over the reform debate. However, this business lobby also has drawbacks. Even though businesses and Republican members of Congress share some of the same free market beliefs, the social beliefs between the two groups creates a divide. In response to some of the lobbying attempts from big business, Republican politicians such as Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions have publicly condemned business for their stance by saying “America is not an oligarchy” and that loose immigration reform is not the best move for our economy. Could a group with economic, national, and social interest better convince Republicans in Congress?

            Citizen lobbying groups have the potential to address these concerns. There is a diverse coalition of citizens groups working to convince Congress to pick up immigration reform. Reform is supported by religious groups, social activists, ethnic rights groups, and many other organizations across the nation. Citizen reform groups have been promoting reform using mostly outside lobbying tactics such as fasting for media attention and voicing their concerns about the need for immigration reform. Citizen groups hope to attract the attention of their representatives who will then respond by pursuing legislation. This is a good strategy because legislators are often very willing to listen to their constituents when concerned about their political seat. However, the citizen’s movement for reform is spread out across the country and may not be effective in districts where incumbents have strong support. Could the last form of lobbying group make the difference?

            Government lobbying groups could also impact how Congress approaches immigration reform. Governmental groups could have more sway over Congress because of their influence on the function of government. However, there has not been much support for immigration by government lobbying groups. In fact, large groups such as the union representing the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency have spoken out against immigration reform. Head of the ICE union Chris Crane sent a letter to big business such as General Mills and the McDonalds Corporation, warning them that their push for comprehensive reform will undermine the work of the ICE. Although large agencies have failed to act, some former political figure such as former Tim Pawlenty aide David Gaither have started to move individually to push legislative reform. Gaither teamed up with the immigration reform group Fwd.us created by businessman Mark Zuckerberg to try to lobby three conservative members of the House. Fwd.us is notable because the group has attempt to use the support of big companies, notable political figures, and small citizens groups to get attention for immigration reform.


It’s very difficult to say which group will have the most success because each group must overcome obstacles to achieve lobbying results. Maybe the best bet is to combine government, citizen, and business factions like Fwd.us has done to promote reform.   





–Arthur Townsend #6


3 responses to “Which lobbying group has the most influence?”

  1. Jane L. says :

    In addition to these three types of lobbyists, it would be interesting to look at how these groups use a combination of the two types of lobbying (inside and outside lobbying) to promote immigration reform. It seems that both are necessary in this instance because they need to educate members of Congress about the need for reform in their districts and at the national level, they need to provide information about the constituents’ preferences, and they need to inform members of Congress about policy alternatives and the potential effects. Outside lobbying is also essential to prove to members of Congress that these issues are important to their own constituents. Of course, outside lobbying can be tricky because members of Congress cannot always distinguish between a true grassroots movement and astroturf lobbying.

  2. Brian N. says :

    I agree with your final conclusion – the only real way to move an institution as gridlocked as congress is through pressure via every means available. Congressmen/women are, after all, people – if every avenue of communication they have is filled with people talking about immigration reform, there is no doubt in my mind that it will make a much stronger impression than three separate waves of pressure. I’d also like to point out that different lobbying groups probably have different amounts of sway in the two parties – a Republican is probably far more receptive to a buisness group than a governmental one.

  3. willralls says :

    It’s very interesting how with this issue, like gun control, most of nation seems to be heading in the same direction, but we’ve seen no legislative progress on the topic. With regard to all the types of groups you’ve mentioned, I think over the past five years the needle has proved in favor in reform, but none of that progress has been observed within the legislature. I wonder if, on certain hard-line issues, all of these groups fail to reach a threshold for effectiveness if party leadership for the GOP has made up its mind on its approach. Or if the GOP base is un-phased by these interest groups, and the party is really only beholden to them.

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