rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 3: p. 294
Sources: Guide to Interest Groups and Lobbying in the United States
Christopher Lee Cochran

Christopher Lee Cochran, Business and Industry Librarian, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Washington, D.C

There are probably very few Americans who have not encountered an interest group or lobbying organization in one guise or the other, either via a phone call, a direct mailing, a TV or radio commercial, or a one-on-one conversation. That contact may be ongoing or a one-time occurrence, but conceptualizing the history, method, and actions behind those encounters reveals an extensive, complex system that has been a part of the U.S. government since its constitutional founding. Editor Burdett Loomis has put together a fine resource that begins to examine these issues and presents not only practical information, but a theoretical framework for students, researchers, and others who have more than a layman's interest in the subject.

The work is divided into seven main topical areas, including a history of interest groups in the United States from the constitutional framing to the twentieth century, the relationship between interest groups and the growth of government, tactics and techniques, campaigns and money, and interest groups beyond Washington (that is, local, state, and global). Black and white photographs and illustrations appear throughout, and an extensive index is included.

This is a broad resource that examines the nature of these organized interests and especially their behavior. More than 40 contributors, primarily scholars, provide their expertise on a range of topics that seek to give the reader or researcher a strong foundation in the fundamentals of lobbying, lobbyists, and organized interests, as well as the important historical context from which they have emerged.

In a time of continually growing and evolving influences on American politics, hastened by the advent of social networking and the continued growth of influential bloggers, citizen journalists, and grass roots organizing, Loomis cautions that while this gives us vibrant politics, it also provides frequent gridlock (6). Given the overwhelmingly negative connotations the lobbying profession and special interest groups carry, it is interesting to note that while spending by interest groups can be substantial, “more systematic examinations find only the most modest effects” (2). Contrary to common perceptions, the editors argue, the act of providing information is the more influential activity of the lobbyist.

The writing can be a bit dense at times, and the approach is purely academic and research-oriented. Other reference sources that examine the same topic are more practical in content (for example, Lobbying and Advocacy: Winning Strategies, Recommendations, Resources, Ethics and Ongoing Compliance for Lobbyists and Washington Advocates [TheCapitol.Net, 2008]) or do not have the same depth (for example, Lobbying in America: A Reference Handbook [ABC-CLIO, 2009]), but each fills a necessary, and complementary, niche.

The price is not out of range for reference works of this quality, depth, and breadth. It is highly appropriate for college and university collections and larger public library systems.



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