Special-Interest Lobbies

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Special-Interest Lobbies

William Slany

Lobbies are generally recognized as those individuals or groups who seek to present the point of view of interest groups to members of Congress, generally with respect to specific legislation. But in the increasingly complicated American democracy of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, lobbying must be seen as a wider and more dynamic phenomenon. Interest groups also lobby the executive branch, which has gained expanded discretionary authority from Congress; government officials lobby interest groups in the hope of generating grassroots support for policies and actions; and foreign governments lobby Congress to supplement traditional diplomacy. How and why these newer forms of lobbying arose and function is an important strand in the history of modern American foreign affairs.

The occasional lobbying on foreign affairs issues in the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth century was largely by business and agricultural interests and was generally confined to trade and tariff issues. Until World War II, Congress generally met for short legislative sessions before members returned home; a handful of party oligarchs controlled the flow of legislation. They organized coalitions to adopt legislation and most of the deliberations of congressional committees took place in private. Foreign affairs very rarely rose above the level of inconsequential trade and tariff problems and Congress seldom faced the great pressure of international events that later became customary in World War II and the Cold War. For the greater part of the nation's history, members of Congresswhose constituents were very unlikely to come to Washingtonhad small staffs whose main task was answering mail, which was not very voluminous. There were few lobbyists and few interest groups in the capital.

By the middle of the nineteenth century Congress had begun in a rudimentary manner to regulate the influencing of legislation by outsiders, but attempts to control lobbyists systematically did not begin until the eve of World War I as a result of a congressional investigation of tariff lobbying by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Nothing came of this initial probe, and a "control of lobbying" bill failed to win congressional approval in 1928. But Depression-era investigations of lobbying abuses by the utilities and Wall Street banks resulted in New Deal legislation that regulated public utilities, the merchant marine, and foreign agents and required registration and reporting for the first time in history.

After World War II, and particularly starting in the 1970s, lobbying in Washington expanded to a degree unimagined in previous generations. As the nation grew larger it also became more pluralistic. Interest groups multiplied and often were in conflict. Traditional isolationism or general indifference to foreign affairs was replaced by heightened awareness of the global involvement and reach of the United States. The dissident political movements of the 1960s demonstrated the possibilities of group political activities and prompted the rise of new groups that felt government was not being responsive to their needs and interests. The rapid evolution of efficient and cheap mass communication promoted grassroots advocacy far beyond previous levels.

Perhaps the most important change was the quiet revolution in the fundamental nature and rules of the legislative process in Washington: the fragmentation of the power of the political parties and party leaderships; the promotion of individual candidates with special agendas at odds with party preferences and priorities; and the restructuring of election campaign spending in ways that allowed groups to support particular candidates. Changes in Congress in the early 1970s, which some have described as a revolt of a new generation of younger politicians against old-guard traditional leaders, resulted in a reorganization of power within Congress, including a reduction in the power of party leaders and committee heads and an increase in the role of subcommittee heads and individual members. Instead of several dozen committees guided by the party leaderships, there were more than 200 subcommittees, often run by individual congressmen free of leadership control. Congressional staffs grew from 2,500 in 1947 to 18,000 in 2000.

These changes opened the door for interest groups, lobbyists, public relations experts, and political consultants of all kinds. The number of interest groups expanded steadily, growing by one measure from 10,300 in 1968 to 20,600 in 1988. The number of registered lobbyists in Washington grew from around 500 during World War II to more than 25,000 by the early 1990s. The number of political action committees (PACs) that financed many of the more powerful interest groups increased from a handful in 1970 to more than 4,000 in less than twenty years.

Changes in the 1970s in the regulations governing interest groups further facilitated the expansion of the legion of lobbyists. Congress adopted the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act in 1946, the first comprehensive law controlling lobbying. It defined a lobbyist as one who has solicited or collected contributions, whose main purpose or the purpose of the contributions was to influence legislation, and whose method of influencing Congress was through direct communications with members of Congress. Lobbyists were required to register with the secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House of Representatives and file quarterly financial statements listing receipts and expenditures and including detailed accounts of contributions over $500.

The Lobbying Act did not provide for enforcement, and there have been few investigations. Moreover, the law had major loopholes: it did not cover lobbies or industries that did not solicit funds but instead spent their own funds, and it did not apply to lobbying activities that sought to influence Congress indirectly by influencing public opinion. Nor did its provisions apply to the lobbying of the executive branch. Congress sought to close some loopholes with the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (amended in 1974 and 1979), which compelled disclosure of contributions to and expenditures on behalf of candidates standing for election. The Supreme Court held that the provisions of the law did not apply to "issue groups," whose main purpose was not to elect candidates but to discuss public issues or influence public opinion. The legislation limited the amount of money, known as hard money, that individuals or groups could contribute directly to any candidate in a federal election but not the amounts that could be spent indirectly on behalf of candidates and their electoral campaigns, the so-called soft money. The legislation of the 1970s and ensuing Supreme Court interpretations led to the growth of political action committees (PACs), which could spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates. They also allowed unlimited expenditures by political parties and interest groups in volunteer efforts to get out the vote and educate voters on election issues.

The congressional limitation on presidential war powers during the Nixon years gained for Congress an expanded share of the responsibility for foreign policy at the expense of the executive branch of government. This new codetermination of foreign policy, combined with the internal changes occurring within Congress, made Congress much more responsive to special interests and their lobbies, which on occasion became decisive players in shaping foreign policies. Lobbies operating outside the executive and legislative branches of government became the means for organizing information about foreign policy issues. They informed and galvanized public opinion regarding particular courses of action and coordinated the persuasion of lawmakers and policymakers to take the issues on board. At the same time, the political parties were less and less able to control and disseminate information about issues or give coordinated statements regarding urgent foreign policy goals and national interests. Moreover, the elaborate information security systems that were deployed within government in the last half of the twentieth century invested foreign policy with a secrecy shield that deprived the public of much in the way of meaningful information on diplomatic crises and commitments. Many Washington lobbyists found that members of Congress and their staffs were their best contacts for influencing foreign affairs or for obtaining unauthorized information. On the other hand, lobbyists and their PACs wereon issues that concerned themgreat sources of information for members of Congress and for the public at large and frequently set the tone of the debate on current issues.


Trade and Tariff Lobbies During the first century and a half of American history, trade was one of the few consistent issues in an essentially isolationist foreign policy. Most of the lobbying of Congress resulted from the clash between protectionists and supporters of moderate tariffs. However, the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act adopted by Congress in 1934 signaled the end of Congress's attempts, in response to the pressure of economic lobbying groups, to determine the tariff on individual commodities. The act gave the president the authority to negotiate reciprocal agreements and set tariffs. It ended the period in which tariff making was essentially a domestic affair and changed it into a foreign policy matter in which Congress was only periodically involved when major enabling legislation came before it.

In the decades after World War II, the lobbies in Washington for industry, business, and farm groups focused on specific national, regional, or economic sector protectionist measures in response to the rising sentiment in support for or acquiescence to international trade liberalization. The United States took the lead in 1946 in convening a conference on multilateral trade negotiations that resulted in the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), dedicated to reducing tariffs and import quotas and achieving free trade. The GATT laid out a code of trade practices and schedules of tariff reductions for many of the commodities in international trade. By 1975 tariffs had been reduced worldwide from an average of about 40 percent to an average of 10 percent, and international trade had tripled. The periodic negotiations among nations under GATT during the rest of the century attracted protectionist lobbies, and industries and farmers were likely to lobby Congress and the executive branch regarding the "escape clause" exceptions to tariff levels that were managed by the executive branch and periodically reauthorized by Congress.

The United States also entered into multilateral trade agreements in the immediate postwar period for such major commodities as wheat and sugar. International arrangements for other commodities such as tea, wool, cotton, tin, and rubber arose, but resistance to joining such cartels was strong in the United States. Lobbyists for farmers and other agricultural interests worked tirelessly to influence executive branch agencies involved in the negotiations, and Congress had its own continuing role to play. The lobbying on specific commodities also came from foreign governments. Caribbean governments mounted lobbying campaigns aimed at Congress regarding the allocation of the annual quota of imported sugar. Success could mean the difference between prosperity and depression in those island nations.

The growth of foreign economic competition with American industries and farms over the decades caused lobbies for particular interest groupsoil producers, southern textile companies, and automobile makers, for exampleto lobby insistently for tariff protection. The rising trend of trade liberalization of the postwar period reached a peak in the 1960s with the so-called Kennedy Round of the GATT negotiations (19621967) and the Trade Expansion Act adopted by Congress in October 1962. The 1962 legislation was strongly supported by the liberal trade lobby. It was led by the Committee for a National Trade Policy, representing large corporations with export interests, but which also included the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. On the losing side in 1962 were such protectionist interest groups as the American Trade Council, representing big businesses, trade associations, and farm groups, and the Liberty Lobby, an ultraconservative group that opposed trade legislation as an unconstitutional delegation of tariff-making power to the president.

Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the authority to negotiate trade agreements had been in the State Department, but many farm and industry groups came to believe that State was unsympathetic with and unresponsive to domestic interests. The establishment under the terms of the Trade Act of 1962 of an independent Office of the Special Trade Representative located in the Executive Office of the president was largely attributable to the efforts of the lobbyists for those groups. The appointment of the trade representative was made by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Military-Industrial Complex Another economic lobby resulted from the maintenance by the United States, from World War II onward, of a powerful and modern armed force based on the defense industries. This created a unique and troubling set of relationships between those industries and the government, particularly the Department of Defense (DOD). Also, the vast amount of U.S. military assistance to foreign countries became a major factor in American foreign affairs as well as in the domestic economy. The defense industries became the most consistently powerful of all interest groups. They developed and maintained vital relationships with the Defense Department, which let contracts for the acquisition of arms, equipment, and services, as well as with members of Congress, particularly those whose districts were home to the corporations producing the arms. In his farewell address in 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the "grave implications" of the growing influence of the "military-industrial complex" in every city, statehouse, and federal agency. Eisenhower said that he had sought, without consistent success, to curtail military spending and the economic and political power of the complex.

One consequence of the recognition of the danger of the Congress-DOD-industry triumvirate was the rise in power, beginning with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, of the national security adviser at the White House. This official could, better than the often unsatisfactory interagency resolutions within and outside the National Security Council system in the Eisenhower era, coordinate national security policy and insulate foreign policy decision making from the military-industrial interest groups.


Interventionism on the Eve of World War II After World War I, most Americans remained isolationists well into the 1930s. By 1940, however, when Britain stood alone against the aggression of Germany and its Axis partners, a clear majority of Americans approved of providing assistance to those who resisted fascism, and many even favored armed intervention. But a large number of Americans still clung to their isolationist views, fearing the nation's involvement in war. A national debate during 1940 and 1941, punctuated by congressional legislation, gradually moved the United States from strict neutrality to near belligerency in the war against the fascist dictatorships.

Lobbies for and against neutrality were mobilized for the congressional votes on the Revised Neutrality Act in November 1939, the Selective Service Act in September 1940, the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941, the failed anticonvoy Senate resolution of April 1941, the renewal of Selective Service in August 1941, and the revision of the Neutrality Act in November 1941. President Roosevelt and some of his principal advisers maintained very close relationships with the pro-interventionist national interest groups in the lobbying of Congress for the legislation needed to spur American rearmament and the more urgent task of aiding Britain (and the Soviet Union after it was invaded by Germany in June 1941).

The Non-Partisan Committee for Peace through the Revision of the Neutrality Law marshaled the support of prominent internationalists in 1939. The Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, often called the White Committee after its chairman, William Allen White, became the leading interventionist mass pressure group until the outbreak of war in December 1941. Interventionists gained secret but significant support from the British government, which established the so-called British Security Coordination in New York City. This organization, which also headquartered British intelligence operations for the Western Hemisphere, had the approval of President Roosevelt and some assistance from FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover in discrediting leaders of the isolationist America First Committee such as Charles Lindbergh. On the other side, the America First Committee was formed in September 1940 by pacifists and leading isolationist political and social leaders from all parts of the political spectrum. Some of them were anti-Semites. It had more than 800,000 members organized in more than 450 local chapters at its high point in mid-1941.

American isolationism largely disappeared after World War II, and President Harry S. Truman was successful in persuading Congress to support the Marshall Plan, aid to Greece and Turkey, and the establishment of NATO, all in the late 1940s. Nonetheless, in 1951 a great debate broke out as the remaining isolationist congressmen and senators sought legislation to restrict U.S. engagement in Europe and limit the president's authority to station troops abroad. A private, nonpartisan lobbying group, the Committee on the Present Danger, which included leaders from the Council on Foreign Relations, college and corporate presidents, and former government officials, successfully rallied support for an activist role for America abroad. The committee used radio extensively to help shape public opinion and influence Congress not to limit President Truman's authority to act abroad. By 1954 the perception among some that presidential direction of an ever more boldly internationalist foreign policy was totally escaping congressional control precipitated one last serious effort to invoke the Constitution to restrain the White House. Major efforts by coalitions of lobbying groups on both sides preceded a close vote in the Senate that repulsed Senator John Bricker's proposed legislation limiting the president's treaty-making authority.

Anticommunism and the China Lobby In place of prewar isolationism, Americans in the postwar period accepted the nation's superpower status and generally embraced an assertive anticommunist ideology in foreign affairs. The struggle with the Soviet Union was the central theme of the Cold War, but the rise to power in China of a communist regime in 1949 gave rise to a noisy if small domestic claque demanding U.S. intervention into Asian affairs. The so-called China Lobby was a loose association of supporters of Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist Chinese regime both before and after it was overthrown by the communists. This pressure group counted among its active participants public relations and business leaders, newspaper editors, ultraconservative writers, wartime members of the Nationalist government, a number of American military figures who had served in China during World War II, and some prominent Republican members of Congress.

China Lobby activities included sponsoring articles in magazines and newspapers and providing research support for sympathetic politicians on such critical congressional committees as the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Senate committees used by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy to investigate communism in government and elsewhere. Many Republicans aligned themselves with the China Lobby in political attacks against the Truman administration and the Democratic Party. It aimed its sharpest criticisms at the president himself and at the State Department's policymakersthe socalled China handsfor their failure to save Chiang's government on the mainland and for allegedly favoring the communists. During the Eisenhower administration, Senator William Knowland of California, a leading proponent of strong ties with the Chinese Nationalists who had fled to Taiwan in 1949, was criticized for his acceptance of support and information from the China Lobby and was characterized as the "Senator from Formosa."

Nuclear Disarmament Another postwar lobby emerged from the growth of antibomb and pronuclear disarmament sentiment. The development of this lobby, however, was slow and difficult in the face of the public's readiness to support military solutions to international problems, which were nearly always seen in Cold War terms. The antibomb movement in the United States drew upon the decades-old experience of traditional pacifists and antiwar groups in lobbying Congress. Nuclear disarmament issues, however, were not subjects for congressional legislation. Modern antiwar groups developed a unique mass movement and invented a new model of lobbying in the age of the "imperial presidency."

American scientists took the lead in warning of the dangers to humankind posed by nuclear weapons. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), formed in late 1945, spearheaded the dissemination of information about the dangers of nuclear weapons and developed a program for seeking effective political controls over such weapons. However, antibomb activists, including the FAS, had only one early success: the lobbying effort in Congress in 1946 in support of creating the Atomic Energy Commission and legislation that removed the manufacture of weapons and further research in nuclear energy.

U.S. and Soviet development of hydrogen bombs in the 1950s, the proliferation of bomb-making technology to Britain and France, and nuclear weapons testing spurred another round of antibomb activities in the United States and elsewhere. However, the secrecy with which the government protected all aspects of nuclear weapons development placed a constraint on antibomb lobbying.

The dangers of radioactive fallout from the U.S. and Soviet bomb tests of the 1950s became an immediate, recognizable danger to people around the globe. Beginning in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, in July 1957, nuclear scientists from many nations met in a series of conferences over the next several decades that searched for a scientific basis for arms control, if not disarmament. The Pugwash movement laid the basis for later disarmament and arms control plans. The National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) gave leadership to an emerging public consensus for an end to the testing of weapons and lobbied the government for action. SANE, founded in 1957, never numbered more than 25,000 members, but allied with such other groups as Women Strike for Peace, it soon convinced a majority of the population that nuclear fallout was a real public danger.

In the face of the secrecy and intensive security surrounding nuclear bomb development and testing and the absence of an effective dialogue with the government, antibomb activists resorted to civil disobedience. SANE and Women Strike for Peace were joined in these actions by the American Friends Service Committee, the Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. These groups conducted noisy demonstrations; protests at nuclear test sites, including intrusions by ship into Pacific test areas; prayer vigils outside the White House; and petition campaigns against testing.

The government, particularly during the Eisenhower presidency, denounced antiwar demonstrations as subversive and, wittingly or not, a boon to communism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested and on occasion sought to prosecute demonstrators or movement leaders. The FBI's anticommunist infiltration program targeted antibomb and pacifist groups, while the Central Intelligence Agency intercepted and reviewed their mail. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the House Un-American Activities Committee investigated antibomb organizations and accused many of them of being infected by communist sentiment to varying degrees.

The growing public awareness and anxiety regarding nuclear weapons testing that was stirred by the antibomb movement, combined with behind-the-scenes efforts of scientists to influence the government from within, finally moved the government toward arms control in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Soviet Union adopted a unilateral testing moratorium in March 1958, and the United States followed suit later that year with its own moratorium, which lasted until 1961. President John F. Kennedy and his liberal advisers adopted a friendly attitude toward the disarmament and antibomb activists. SANE representatives lobbied sympathetic members of Congress to introduce legislation calling for an international test ban. President Kennedy used Norman Cousins, the president of SANE, as an intermediary with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev on partial test ban negotiations. After U.S., British, and Soviet representatives agreed to an atmospheric test ban treaty in July 1963, the Kennedy administration enlisted the antibomb movement in a lobbying effort with the Senate, and leaders of SANE and the United World Federalists worked with labor leaders to convince the Senate to confirm the test ban treaty by a large majority.


Vietnam Antiwar Movement The antinuclear bomb campaign, along with the civil rights movement, signaled the emergence of new and powerful ideological tendencies in the United States. The war in Vietnam in the 1960s and into the 1970s resulted in a steadily intensifying national debate and an antiwar movement of unprecedented scope and intensity. If the antiwar movement failed to conform to some of the more recognizable criteria of a lobby, its ultimate impact on American politics, on the organization of Congress, and on Americans' attitudes toward their government nevertheless precipitated an unprecedented engagement of the people with their government on foreign affairs issues that permanently changed the geography of foreign policy decision making.

The antiwar movement began on college campuses in the spring of 1965 with "teach-ins" and spread spontaneously later that year. Well-established peace groups like the SANE and traditional religious pacifist groups took up the movement. The November 1965 March on Washington brought together the largest antiwar protest seen in Washington in the postwar years and led to hearings on Vietnam before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in February 1966. In 1967 the movement spread beyond the traditional arms control and pacifist groups to new specialized coalitions of activists from recently radicalized portions of the population. The new groups included Another Mother for Peace, Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, and the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War.

As the war continued, its domestic consequences included the shattering of the American consensus on foreign policy, skepticism about the veracity of the government, and a conviction of the need to petition the government directly and confrontationally. Antiwar demonstrations, although largely made up of middle-class and better-educated Americans, became increasingly strident and radical. In April 1967, 50,000 people in San Francisco gathered to protest the war and 200,000 demonstrated in New York. The October 1967 March on Washington drew 100,000 demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial and 50,000 in a march on the embattled Pentagon.

President Richard M. Nixon's efforts to "Vietnamize" the war in Southeast Asia were frustratingly slow in bringing an end to the fighting. Continued bombing and new incursions outside Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia regenerated the antiwar movement. There were nationwide demonstrations in October 1969, along with mail campaigns aimed at Congress. Massive demonstrations in Washington in November 1969 included candle-carrying demonstrators circling the White House, which was protected behind a barricade of buses, and the massing of 325,000 marchers on the Mall. The demonstrations persisted into 1971 and 1972 as the war continued. The conflict ended formally in January 1973 after protracted negotiations in Paris, with the last U.S. personnel leaving Vietnam in 1975.

Frustrated at its inability to end American military involvement in Southeast Asia, Congress from 1973 to 1975 undertook a series of legislative actions focused on the president's war powers. These measures were aimed at limiting the initiative of the president in foreign affairs by insisting on congressional involvement in decisions concerning not only U.S. military engagement in other countries but in the rendering of military and economic assistance. The efforts of the antiVietnam War movement to halt American involvement in Vietnam thus served as the catalyst for a revolution in foreign policymaking. Moreover, the horrendous excesses of the Vietnam War aroused the sensibilities of the American people and confirmed their new attentiveness to humanitarian, social, and even environmental issues. This gave rise to the emergence of new and powerful foreign affairs lobbies based on previously unheard interest groups and constituencies.

Environmental Lobby For Americans concerned about foreign policy, the antiVietnam War movement provided the model of how to influence and lobby policymakers. The environmental movement was one of the earliest outgrowths of the Vietnam experience. Millions were estimated to have participated in local activities during the first Earth Day, held in April 1970. Beginning that year the movement's more radical adherents employed the anticorporate rhetoric and civil-disobedience tactics developed by the Vietnam-era demonstrators. The mass action and confrontational model adopted by environmental advocates intersected with controversial foreign affairs issues in the 1990s to draw attention to the anti-environmental consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the decisions in support of economic globalization made at meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999 and the World Bank in Washington, D.C., in 2000.

Human Rights Lobby In the first decades after the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the issue of human rights was overshadowed by the Cold War. The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker group founded in 1943, developed a reputation for lobbying activity on behalf of domestic civil rights and a humane foreign policy. It took a leading role in marshaling liberal political lobbies regarding the protection of human rights in the regional conflicts in Latin America. But the human rights lobby did not become important until the early 1970s. It was sparked in part by the civil rights movement of the 1960s but also by the fact that a major change occurred during the 1970s in the way American foreign policy was pursued. In that decade Congress acquired much more influence in the formulation of foreign policy. That was made possible particularly by the War Powers Act in 1973 but also by new measures for oversight of CIA operations, including creation of the permanent Joint Committee on Intelligence in 1976 and passage of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which regulated arms sales abroad.

Of signal importance was the revision in 1975 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include a provision for congressional supervision of the application of human rights standards in decisions about economic assistance. The revision, called the Harkin Amendment, forbade for the first time the provision of assistance to "any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations on internationally recognized human rights" unless the president determined that such aid would "directly benefit needy people" in the country.

Soon after the revision of the Foreign Assistance Act, human rights lobbiesmuch to the dismay of both the Ford and Carter administrationsbegan to intensify their efforts to halt or curb assistance to countries such as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Uganda, and Ethiopia, whose governments were consistent human rights violators. The liberal human rights lobbying groups were soon matched by conservative human rights lobbies seeking to halt assistance to left-wing regimes in such countries as Angola and Mozambique. The Nixon and Ford administrations, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and the State Department sought to dissuade Congress with warnings of the negative impact that the withdrawal of aid would have on important relationships. The lobbyists could not persuade Congress to end or significantly scale back assistance to such strategically important nations as South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Philippines, even though their human rights records were poor. Human rights organizations did, however, become a primary source of legislative initiatives concerning U.S. policy on human rights issues in matters before the multilateral development banks, the International Monetary Fund, and the Export-Import Bank.

Nowhere were the post-1970 efforts of American human rights lobbies more vigorous than in the area of U.S. relations with Latin America. The human rights groups filled an information vacuum, providing sympathetic policymakers with information not accessible from government agencies. More importantly, in the 1970s ideologically liberal human rights groups developed more sophisticated, broadly based, and effective lobbying techniques. The Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) made U.S. support for repressive regimes in Latin America a major foreign policy issue. The ADA took the lead in opposing the oppressive regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile in the mid-1970s by persuading Congress to limit assistance to that nation. The human rights lobby incited congressional action that ended military training for Argentina by exposing the brutality of the Argentine regime. In the 1980s the human rights lobby and its concerns about regimes with bad human rights records mobilized public opinion and contributed significantly to congressional action restraining President Ronald Reagan's policies for military and covert operations in Central America. To hamper opponents of military intervention, the Internal Revenue Service went so far as to challenge the tax-exempt status of the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), one of the main opponents of Central American policy.

While American business lobbies avoided taking a public stance against human rights lobbies, especially in the case of Latin America, they cultivated U.S. government support for regimes accused of repressive conduct and human rights violations. International Telephone and Telegraph was remarkably successful in promoting U.S. hostility to the Marxist government of Chile in the early 1970s. The successor right-wing government of Pinochet, in contrast, was supported by the business lobby.

Such key organizations as the Business Roundtable ensured that their members had personal meetings on foreign affairs issues with members of Congress and high-ranking executive branch officials, including the president. U.S. business interests in Latin America worked through organizations such as the Council of the Americas, a nonprofit association supported by more than two hundred corporations doing business in Latin America, and the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America. Neither organization opposed U.S. expressions of concern about human rights violations but sought to encourage the U.S. government to avoid actions that would disrupt normal lending policies of international financial institutions.

Amnesty International, which opened an office in Washington in 1976, and the International Commission of Jurists, based in Geneva, Switzerland, did not lobby Congress or the executive branch on human rights, but the authoritative information on human rights violations that these organizations provided made human rights lobbies more effective in Congress. In addition, the persistent lobbying by American groups of State Department officials responsible for human rights policy made the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission the stalwart defender of human rights in nations around the world through the remainder of the twentieth century.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s, Congress and the Clinton administration responded to a rising tide of lobbying on behalf of the victims, mostly Jewish, of fascist regimes in Europe, particularly Nazi Germany. The collapse of communism allowed for the revisiting of the unfinished history of the Holocaust era and a search for some final restitution to victims of Nazi aggression and genocide. In the United States, as in some European nations, Jewish organizations mobilized government support for a campaign against Switzerland, whose banks were alleged to hold the accounts of thousands of heirless victims of Nazi concentration camps. The U.S. and British governments took the lead in organizing an international effort to identify and recover what remained of monetary assets and gold looted by the Nazi regime. The lobbying effort expanded to other kinds of properties stolen from European Jews, such as art, insurance, and communal properties. By the end of the century it had extended its reach to the search for compensation for slave labor in Nazi Germany.

Anti-Apartheid Lobby The founding of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969 and Trans Africa in 1978 provided a focus for a remarkably effective lobby for African issues, particularly initiatives aimed at thwarting and overturning the apartheid policies of the white-minority government in South Africa. A coalition of anti-apartheid groups gathered under the umbrella of the Free South Africa Movement stirred public awareness of the consequences of South Africa's racist policies. These organizations provided information, not forthcoming from the executive branch of the U.S. government, for the debate over American policy toward Africa and the white-minority governments in Africa, particularly South Africa. They rallied around the socalled Sullivan Principles, formulated in the late 1970s by the Reverend Leon Sullivan and expressing basic requirements for the equal treatment of black workers in South Africa and for improving living conditions outside the workplace. These organizations lobbied members of Congress and, more effectively, the major corporations doing business in South Africa, which were persuaded to adopt the principles.

This remarkable effort to refashion American foreign policy by an alliance of black activists, corporations, and some members of Congress went forward in the absence of direction from the president and the State Department. The alliance decisively influenced the 1985 passage in Congress, over President Reagan's veto, of legislation imposing economic sanctions on South Africa and a ban on major investments in and exports to that country. This was the first time since 1973when Congress overrode President Nixon's veto of the War Powers Actthat Congress overrode a presidential veto on a foreign affairs issue. Secretary of State George Shultz, who preferred a more restrained and studied effort to change South Africa's policies, deplored the action by Congress as a true erosion of the president's ability to conduct foreign policy.

Women's Issues and Lobbies The vigorous involvement by women in the antibomb and antiVietnam War campaigns in the 1960s launched a new and powerful assertiveness by women in foreign affairs issues. This involvement coincided with the rapid evolution of the feminist movement. Observers have noted that no new domestic interest group rose more rapidly during the 1970s than organized feminism. One persistent demand of women's organizations from that time forward was the appointment of more women to government positions. The Coalition for Women's Appointments, representing more than fifty women's organizations, made the first-ever independent effort by women's groups to lobby for the appointment of women to major posts.

The number of appointments of women to policymaking positions in the foreign affairs community slowly grew during the rest of the century but scarcely kept up with the rapidly strengthening international movement for women's rights. World conferences on women were convened at Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, and Nairobi in 1985, and women's rights were high on the agendas of the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, and the UN Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. Thousands of American women, most often organized in hundreds of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), supported the advancement of women's issues in these and other international meetings and organizations. These women vigorously lobbied the U.S. government, particularly the State Department and the White House, beginning with the Carter presidency. The foreign affairs bureaucracy responded by appointing women to represent the United States on women's issues before the UN and other international organizations and to provide American leadership to international movements for women's rights.


Panama Canal Treaty Lobbies The enormous growth of lobbies beginning in the 1970s, the tendency of presidential administrations to emphasize the national security aspects of most crucial issues, and increasing American public awareness of environmental issues worldwide all made the public debate over major foreign economic policy issues increasingly complex. Ideological issues became deeply intertwined with economic issues and often brought ideological lobbies to the side of economic issues in major policy controversies. The run-up to the ratification by Congress of the Panama Canal Treaties in 1978 was marked by a national debate, the outlines of which were largely defined by two opposing groups of lobbies. Opponents of the treaties joined under an umbrella lobby called the Emergency Coalition to Save the Panama Canal. Included were the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Conservative Union, American Security Council, Young Americans for Freedom, Conservative Caucus, Citizens for the Republic, and National Conservative Political Action Committee. Richard Viguerie, at the time the leading direct mailer of lobbying literature, called the campaign surrounding the Panama Canal Treaties the largest grassroots lobbying effort ever mounted, estimating that up to ten million letters had been directed to Congress. Some liberal Senate supporters of the treaties attributed the failure of their 1978 reelection bids directly to the conservative lobbying campaign. President Jimmy Carter's White House mounted a vigorous educational and lobbying campaign in support of the treaties. A Committee of Americans for the Canal Treaties enlisted such prominent dignitaries as W. Averell Harriman, former CIA director William Colby, and AFL-CIO head George Meany. Leaders of the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Institute of Merchant Shipping testified on the benefits of the treaties for the United States. The AFL-CIO carried out a program for grassroots support of the treaties, and the White House urged Panamanian president Omar Torrijos to use professional lobbyists in approaching the Senate.

Business, Industrial, Aerospace, and Trade Lobbies Congressional action to limit political contributions to individual members of Congress was a major factor behind the decision by corporations to increase lobbying expenditures in the 1970s as a substitute for the previous practice of creating "slush funds" for politicians. The Chamber of Commerce, with its 2,500 local chapters, 1,300 professional and trade associations, and nearly 70,000 corporate members, was the most important business lobbyist. The chamber did not engage extensively in foreign relations matters; it did, though, have a noteworthy record of rescuing foreign aid programs during the last quarter of the twentieth century. Ad hoc business organizations carried the burden of the business community in developing wide national support for various trade agreements such as the GATT, the International Trade Organization (ITO), and NAFTA.

No commodity in American trade is more heavily lobbied than sugar. Domestic growers of cane and beets persuaded New Deal officials that the trade liberalization then being strenuously advanced by secretaries of state should not apply to sugar, which, they argued, should instead be protected from the uncertainties of international trade. The federal government, lobbied by highly effective organizations such as the American Sugar Alliance, continued until the end of the century legislative protections greatly limiting the import of sugar, despite the free-trade tide. By 2000, lobbyists for the American manufacturers of foods requiring large quantities of sugar were competing with the sugar-growing lobby to influence Congress regarding the future of programs limiting sugar imports and subsidizing domestic growers.

The oil and aerospace industries fielded the most important business lobbies. The American Petroleum Institute represented more than three hundred corporations, and major oil companies lobbied directly and retained costly legal and public relations firms. The oil industry lobbies were principally concerned with energy legislation and the administration of national energy policies, but they also acted to counter the efforts of the Israeli lobby to block arms sales to Israel's Arab neighbors.

The military-industrial complex continued through the end of the century to employ hundreds of former Defense Department officials as well as many former members of Congress. It appears, however, that the lobbyists in this area seldom united on foreign policy legislation; instead they simply competed with one another in securing contracts to supply the various branches of service.

Law of the Sea Agreement and Business, Fishing, and Environmental Lobbies The negotiation of the UN Law of the Sea Treatya treaty aimed at ensuring broad fishing rights for maritime nations and assigning control of deep sea mineral rights to an international authoritygreatly concerned American business interests and prompted vigorous lobbying on their behalf. A lobby representing the bulk of the U.S. fisheries industry, including the National Coalition for Marine Conservation, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Maine Sardine Packers Association, and Yakima Tribal Council, persuaded Congress in 1975 to adopt a two-hundred-mile territorial zone from which foreign fishing was prohibited.

Joining in the lobbying effort were some of the newer public interest lobbies such as those mounted by the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, and Friends of the Earth. Normally confined to domestic environmental issues, these organizations urged on Congress the need for strong national control of U.S. coastal zones in order to ensure high environmental and antipollution standards. American firms such as Kennecott Copper, Standard Oil of Indiana, Lockheed Missiles and Space, and Deepsea Ventures lobbied Congress for legislation to circumvent the international movement for the Law of the Sea Treaty and to allow American firms to exploit for profit seabed mineral resources. The proposals for the treaty, strongly supported by the many developing nations that had no means to reap the benefits of deep-sea mining, would establish an international authority with exclusive rights over the seabed. Nine years of intense international negotiations ended in 1982 with the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention, which included definitions of international navigational rights, territorial sea limits, the legal status of the resources in the seabed, and the conservation of marine resources, came into force in 1994 with the ratification by sixty signatories including the United States.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) In the lobbying over NAFTA and the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) during the 1990s, the older issues of tariff and investment policy intersected with the more recent issues of human rights and environmental protection. The precursor agreement, the bilateral U.S.Canadian agreement of 1989, was the culmination of a century of intermittent discussion between the two countries. The extension of free trade to Mexico under NAFTA, signed by President George H. W. Bush in December 1992, required three years of intense diplomatic negotiation and almost frantic lobbying.

NAFTA was as much about the regulation and protection of transnational investments as it was about lowering tariffs and facilitating commerce; in addition, it sought to clarify immigration policies, consumer safety regulations, and environmental standards and practices. Most of the businesses that had lobbied for much of the century for lower tariffs embraced NAFTA, but some economic leaders felt the agreement posed grave dangers. Influential business leaders such as Ross Perot led the effort to persuade Congress to reject the agreement. Trade union lobbies joined those of environmental groups and human rights organizations in opposition. They feared that NAFTA would not protect Mexican workers from exploitation, would lead to the degradation of the environment in Mexico, and would cause job losses in the United States when businesses moved south of the border.

This collision of lobbies resulted in a fracture of party loyalties and the usual coalitions in Congress. President Bill Clinton became the principal and eventually the successful lobbyist for NAFTA. He bargained with various individual members of Congress with promises of amending the agreement to provide protection for various regional products in exchange for favorable votes. The Senate approved the treaty in November 1993 by 61 to 38. In April 2001, when leaders from nearly all of the Western Hemisphere nations met in Quebec to agree on the outlines for the FTAA, more than 20,000 human rights, labor rights, and environmentalist demonstrators took to the streets with a spirit reminiscent of the antiwar rallies to protest the globalization of the economy.


Ethnic politics and lobbies began with the large waves of nineteenth-century immigration. Irish Americans were one of the more effective ethnic lobbies. But ethnic lobbying became much stronger in the last quarter of the twentieth century. With Congress gaining a larger role in making foreign policy during the 1970s, ethnic groups became more involved in the deliberations over foreign affairs matters in Washington.

Ethnic groups and their lobbies proliferated in the 1970s and 1980s. Greek, Armenian, Turkish, Irish, Hungarian, Romanian, Serbian, and Croatian issues were among the many that often roiled the political scene. Violent rhetoric, confrontations, and even physical clashes led to fractious controversy and bitter recrimination. Congressional leaders regretted the fractiousness of ethnic controversies and the danger they could pose to national interests, but could see no way around such primordial tendencies.

While the executive branch of government proved better able than Congress to insulate itself from ethnic lobbies, some members of Congress began to worry in the late 1970s about the "overall ethnicization of foreign policy." The frequently successful targeting of Congress by ethnic lobbies created fears among some in the executive branch that congressional involvement in the daily conduct of foreign affairs policy, combined with Congress's vulnerability to ethnic interest groups, was imparting an ethnic hue to American diplomacy.

Arab-Israeli Conflict Among the ethnic lobbies, none were more vigorousor more often successfulthan those advocating American support for the state of Israel. The groups concerned with the fate of Israel were referred to at various times as the Zionist lobby, the Jewish lobby, or the Israeli lobby, a terminology that appears to have come into use in the 1970s, when lobbying both for and against support for Israel was most fierce. During World War II, Jewish groups united to advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state for the Jews at a time when outspoken appeals for the rescue of Jewish victims of nazism appeared politically unsound in the United States. They had, however, the support of Christian and labor groups and various public leaders. The American Zionist Council's Emergency Committee on Zionist Affairs, which evolved into the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 1956, provided critical lobbying on behalf of U.S. recognition of Israel in 1948. President Truman acknowledged the importance of the lobbying, which, he observed, counterbalanced the pro-Arab sentiments prevailing in the State Department and the preferences of the oil companies. Pro-Israeli lobbying prevented congressional action mandating unconditional Israeli withdrawal from Egyptian territory following the 1956 Egyptian-Israeli war and also was successful in persuading Congress to suspend aid to Egypt until cargoes bound for Israel were allowed to pass through the Suez Canal.

AIPAC was among the most successful of the ethnic lobbies. By 1990 it represented the views of thirty-eight pro-Israeli organizations, had an annual budget of $12 million, a small but efficient staff supported by more than 10,000 duespaying members, and an executive committee that included the heads of major American Jewish organizations. AIPAC, which confined its activities to advocating U.S. government policies in support of Israel (the Israeli government appears to have left to AIPAC the lobbying of Congress on important issues), gained the reputation for having outstanding intelligence about executive branch planning relative to Israel; often it was able to generate support for the Israeli government position by providing members of Congress with vital information sooner or more fully than could the State Department. AIPAC also generated grassroots lobbying by the many Jewish communities that deluged the State Department with telephone calls and other messages for or against American policies or actions.

AIPAC had some significant successes in lobbying for legislation that provided military and economic assistance to Israel and denied critical arms to its Arab neighbors. The tenacity of AIPAC was on occasion resented by both Republican and Democratic administrations, which wanted to measure American national interests in the Middle East by their own standards, and AIPAC occasionally failed to prevent actions opposed by the Israeli government. In 1978 the Carter administration pushed through Congress the sale of sixty F-15 planes to Saudi Arabia over the opposition of AIPAC. In 1981, Congress passed Reagan administration legislation for the sale of AWACS surveillance aircraft and other equipment to Saudi Arabia despite the strenuous lobbying of AIPAC, and during the senior Bush's presidency AIPAC unsuccessfully challenged White House opposition to a $10 million loan guarantee to Israel. The very vigor of AIPAC lobbying and its contribution to the electoral defeat of prominent congressional opponents of important pro-Israeli legislation stirred fear of renewed anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiment in the United States.

In the absence of a substantial domestic constituency in the United States, Arab states countered the Israeli-AIPAC efforts with a combination of hired professional lobbyists and new advocacy groups. The National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA), formed in 1972, was never as successful as AIPAC, but it did attract attention in the media and in Congress among those who felt that the United States was not evenhanded in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. NAAA became increasingly effective in influencing U.S. institutions as Americans grew more concerned about the plight of the Palestinians. Other groups included the Action Committee on American-Arab Relations, the American Palestine Committee, and the American Near East Refugee Committee. The rival lobbies tended to offset one another. They also intensified the debate around Middle East issues and often informed the outcome.

Jackson-Vanik Amendment In 1973 ethnic and human rights concerns coalesced when Congress adopted legislation requiring that the Soviet government permit wider emigration to Israel in order to obtain most-favored-nation trade status. In working for the legislationthe so-called Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the 1974 Trade ActSenator Henry Jackson gained critical support from the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, an umbrella organization representing major national and local Jewish organizations. The National Conference's grassroots campaign developed an expansive constituent appeal to Congress that generated more than 250 cosponsors for the amendment when Representative Charles Vanik introduced it in the House. The AFL-CIO, which lobbied Congress for special tariff protections for domestic industries impacted by cheap foreign imports, joined Jewish organizations in persuading Congress to adopt the Jackson-Vanik Amendment as well as to withdraw the United States from the International Labor Organization (ILO) because of that organization's recognition of "captive" labor unions in the USSR and the communist bloc generally. Despite an angry visit to Congress by Soviet politburo member Boris Ponomarev, efforts by President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger to negotiate a diplomatic compromise with the Soviet Union were thwarted by the lobbying campaign. Leaders in Congress afterward complained that the kind of lobbying evidenced by Jackson-Vanik made it impossible to conduct normal or effective foreign policy.

Greek-American Lobby In 1964 Greek-American organizations sought to persuade President Lyndon B. Johnson to deny Turkey the use of U.S. military aid to thwart the movement for independence by Greek Cypriots. The impact of the Greek-American lobby on U.S. foreign policy reached its peak in 1974, when it helped to foster congressional legislation that favored an independent Greek Cyprus and opposed Turkish intervention there. Although most observers blamed the Greeks for the fighting that broke out in 1974 in Cyprus between Greek and Turkish Cypriots after the Turkish invasion of the island, the Greek-American community and lobby persuaded Congress to deny U.S. arms to Turkey, a NATO ally. The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and the American Hellenic Institute were instrumental in securing a law that amended foreign aid legislation to cut off assistance to nations using it for purposes other than national defense. In response to the congressional embargo of arms, an action strongly opposed not only by the Nixon administration but by the leadership of Congress itself, Turkey ordered the closing of American military installations on its soil.

A new, more professional lobbying organization, the American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee (AHIPAC), arose in the 1970s; it pressed friendly members of Congress to repel efforts to end the arms embargo against Turkey. AHIPACpatterned after the successful, pro-Israeli AIPACand AHEPA carried on grassroots campaigns that generated large quantities of letters, telegrams, and telephone messages to Congress and the State Department whenever the administration initiated an effort to lift the embargo. The Greek-American community in the United States was not very large, and the effectiveness of its lobbies stemmed not from the number of senators and representatives they could influence but from their success in influencing those few members able to affect the work of Congress. Of course, the reorganization of power in Congress during the 1970s contributed to the potential effectiveness of lobbies like those pressing Greek concerns.

The Greek lobbies also increased their influence by cooperating with other ethnic lobbies, such as those advocating Armenian and Israeli issues. At the end of the 1970s, AIPAC supported the Greek lobby's effort to maintain the embargo against Turkey, while AHIPAC supported the lobbying effort to prevent the sale of aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The Turkish government then retaliated by breaking off relations with Israel, an example of the unintended and unexpected consequences for American foreign policy that these ethnic alliances could have. An alliance of groupsparticularly American veterans' organizationsconcerned about U.S. military security and strength, rallied in support of the government's eventually successful effort to lift the embargo against Turkey.

During the 1970s the Cyprus dispute not only ignited grassroots ethnic lobbying but also precipitated one of the early examples of direct lobbying by foreign governments with Congress. When in 1978 Congress had before it legislation aimed at removing the embargo on arms sales to Turkey, the leaders of all of the concerned governmentsTurkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit, Greek prime minister Constantine Karamanlis, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, and Cypriot president Spyros Kyprianoumet with members of the House. Also, the Greek minister to the United States consulted frequently with the House staff preparing the legislation and apparently was able to mitigate the language removing the embargo.

Armenian-American Lobby In the last several decades of the twentieth century, a small but passionate Armenian-American lobby made the public aware of alleged Turkish genocide in the massacre of Armeniansin estimated numbers ranging from hundreds of thousands to more than 1.5 millionbetween 1915 and 1923. The Armenian lobby in America and other major Western nations was able to obtain a resolution in 2000 from the House International Affairs Committee acknowledging the killing of Armenians as genocide. Only an urgent appeal by President Clinton to the House leaders, reminding them of the danger that Turkey would evict the United States from its Turkish bases if such a resolution were adopted, brought about a last-minute withdrawal of the resolution from consideration.

By the end of the twentieth century Armenian lobbyists, responding to the growing tendency of state governments to adopt positions on foreign policy issues important to their citizens, had pushed their campaigns to the individual states and obtained resolutions in fifteen state legislatures condemning the Turkish massacre of Armenians as genocide. By 2001 the increasingly powerful Armenian Assembly of America, the central Armenian lobby, had purchased a headquarters building two blocks from the White House. The Turkish side of the dispute had no natural constituency in the United States, but representatives of the Turkish embassy engaged in their own lobbying in Washington and in state capitols. An articulate Turkish lobby consistently succeeded in frustrating Armenian demands for resolutions regarding the massacres by reminding members of Congress of the importance of the U.S.Turkish alliance.

Cuban-American Lobby The waves of Cuban refugees to the United States in the last half of the twentieth century significantly impacted domestic politics in Florida and generated a foreign affairs lobby that was a virtual determinant in U.S. policy toward Cuba. The largest Cuban advocacy group, the Cuban-American National Foundation (CANF), led by Jose Mas Canosa until his death in 1997, was highly successful in pushing Congress and the executive branch into initiatives like the establishment of powerful U.S. broadcasting to Cuba by the Voice of America's Radio Martí (in 1985) and TV Martí (1990) and ensuring that the U.S. delegation to the annual meetings of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva took the lead in condemning and isolating the Castro regime. The U.S. sanctions regime against Cuba became a fixture of Washington's policy despite the general trend among America's friends and allies toward the end of the centuryand especially after the collapse of the Soviet blocto seek to normalize diplomatic and economic relations. U.S. leadership in the UN on anti-Castro resolutions, whatever the cost to the overall American role in multilateral diplomacy, was a requirement of State Department policy in all administrations. None wished to arouse the anti-Castro lobby, which had no viable counter-lobby.


Only in the last decades of the twentieth century did foreign governments find it necessary to go beyond traditional diplomatic practices to compete effectively in the often frenzied lobbying efforts surrounding important foreign affairs legislation in Washington. While retaining the usual contingent of consular and diplomatic personnel, foreign embassies increasingly turned to American firms and consultants to represent them with members of Congress, officials of the executive branch, and foreign affairs interest groups. By the early 1990s Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, and Mexico were the biggest spenders on these kinds of activities in the United States. The Canadian government spent an estimated $40 million in seeking support for the U.S.Canadian Free Trade Agreement and Mexico spent $40 million in promoting NAFTA. Nor did foreign governments rely exclusively upon paid lobbies; starting in the 1970s, foreign leaders began dealing directly with Congress. Visits of heads of state to Congress were initially ceremonial, but soon they became working sessions for negotiating with members of Congress and their staffs.

The first laws regulating lobbyists for foreign government were put in place on the eve of World War II, when Congress adopted the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. The legislation was originally spurred by Nazi propaganda in the United States, but after the war its main target became the threat of communism. In 1966 the law was amended to deal more particularly with the lobbyists retained by friendly governments rather than with secret enemy agents. The revised law required every foreign agent engaged in political activity for a foreign government to register with the Justice Department and to make detailed reports of income, expenditures, and contributions. Although the law had enforcement and investigative provisions, it was not vigorously enforced, and compliance appears to have been only nominal. The Foreign Agents Registration Act was again amended later in the 1960s and in the 1970s to provide for the criminal prosecution of foreign agents and lobbyists making election campaign contributions.

By the late 1970s the number of registered foreign agents lobbying or otherwise working on behalf of foreign governments had grown to more than 600, compared to 160 in 1944, and observers noted that this was just the tip of the iceberg. Former high-ranking executive branch officials and members of Congress, including former secretaries of state and chairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, registered as agents for foreign governments. They generally worked for nations of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East that would be affected by trade and military assistance legislation but whose governments knew little about the details of legislation or the workings of Congress. Many foreign governments maintained advocacy offices in Washington that were independent of their embassies. These generally sought to foster commerce by lobbying Congress directly or through sympathetic American business groups. Foreign governments funded fellowships and scholarly centers, which indirectly ensured that the governments' interests and concerns reached Congress through the advice and testimony of American scholars.

The emergence of vigorous human rights lobbies in the 1970s aimed at notoriously repressive governments in Central and South America and Asia caused some governments of the region to enlist Washington lobbyists to mitigate the loss or reduction of American economic or military assistance and counteract bad publicity resulting from human rights violations. In the 1970s the Argentine and Chilean lobbies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars but had little success in dissuading Congress from greatly reducing annual aid allotments. During the same decade, the Nicaraguan lobby was successful in gaining the confidence of some strategically placed members of Congress, who helped delay the withdrawal of American military assistance to General Anastasio Somoza's regime.

Lobbying on behalf of the South Korean government, which annually received about $200 million in military aid and $100 million in Food for Peace agricultural products, precipitated a major scandal in 1976 and 1977. Congress and various executive branch agencies launched investigations into Koreagate, in which the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) was accused of bribery, espionage, influence peddling, and other illegal practices aimed at a number of members of Congress. The investigations concluded that as much as $750,000 may have been distributed to more than thirty members by KCIA agents. The KCIA-managed lobbying program apparently succeeded in warding off restrictions on South Korean aid because of human rights violations by the South Korean regime, but the investigations led to legal action against several former members of Congress and disciplinary action against some sitting members.

U.S. Government Response to Foreign Affairs Lobbying The heightened sensitivity and vulnerability of members of Congress to vocal and determined interest groups contributed to the structural changes in Congress in the 1970s and evolved over time further methods of interaction between legislators and lobbying groups. Where the multiplication of subcommittees failed to meet the needs of interest groups or ensure an effective hearing to their issues, so called "issue caucuses" outside the formal congressional committee structure were set up, allowing interested legislators to work together in responding in a far more focused way to interest groups and their lobbyists. The issue caucuses allowed complicated issues to be more fully delineated and provided venues for individual legislators to develop their positions. The issue caucuses worked so well in bringing together information about contentious matters that the executive branch often tended to favor them rather than dealing with the interest groups themselves, thereby providing an unintended but useful synergy in moving the government forward more quickly to respond to the expectations of interest groups.

As the lobbying of executive branch officials came to be recognized as legitimate, federal officials and lobbyists developed new ways to accomplish common goals. The White House and the State Department more frequently turned not to political parties but to particular interest groups and their lobbies when it was necessary to develop public support for treaties, agreements, and difficult foreign affairs initiatives. In 1978 the Carter White House established a public liaison office that, along with selected senior presidential advisers, had the task of gathering support from interest groups for administration policies and to ensure that the political needs and expectations of those groups were met as much as possible. This approach continued in following administrations. President Clinton drew criticism from political opponents for his extensive entertainment of business interests at the White House, but the practice resulted in important support for such foreign policy initiatives as NAFTA.

The Reagan administration developed a "public diplomacy" program aimed at lobbying public interest groups to counter the tide of public opinion and congressional action against counterinsurgency actions in Central America and the Caribbean. Public diplomacy was defined as government actions to generate support, through information and persuasion, for national security objectives. The State Department became the locus for this public diplomacy program, which over time consisted of numerous ad hoc working groups and task forces of officials drawn from various agencies. The program dealt with the public affairs aspects of each new crisis arising from the administration's Central American and, later, Middle East policies. Public diplomacy programs were carefully designed to allow the administration to skirt the legal constraints on executive branch lobbying of a Congress that sought to thwart the use of covert counterinsurgency actions. The State Department also sought to lobby the fragmented Congress, where individual members had acquired increased power to influence legislation. The liaison relationship between the State Department and Congress, previously funneled exclusively through a Congressional Relations Bureau, was decentralized, and State Department desk officers consulted with congressional staffs on a regular basis, something scarcely imaginable twenty years earlier. These mid-level policy officials also began to meet with interest group lobbyists as they developed policy proposals for the State Department leadership. Informing, persuading, or lobbyingeveryone was doing it.


Foreign affairs experts have criticized the role and influence of domestic politics on the formulation and conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Former secretaries of state took no pleasure in the difficult task of conducting foreign affairs with other nations while simultaneously negotiating policies with Congress or, worse still, with powerful interest groups. Dean Acheson ruefully observed that the limitation imposed by democratic political practices made it difficult to conduct foreign affairs in what he saw to be the national interest, and Henry Kissinger and others complained of the near impossibility of effectively conducting foreign policy in an open society. George Shultz lamented when Congress, persuaded in large measure by public advocates, proscribed executive-branch diplomatic initiatives. It may be inevitable that practitioners of diplomacy, faced with the difficult task of reconciling U.S. national interests, as articulated by the president, with the demands and expectations of other nations, will view with distress and even horror the public airing by interest groups and their lobbies of facts or issues that can embarrass and constrain diplomatic relations. American negotiators, comparing their situation with the virtual autonomy often enjoyed by foreign diplomats, must often feel handicapped by the uninvited and unwelcome intrusions of interest groups and their lobbies.

Not only are lobbies recurrent obstacles to policymakers and negotiators, but they have gathered around them more than an aura of operating outside of traditional rules and roles. Gifts and favors from lobbies and interest groups to members of Congress and officials of the executive branch heighten the fear of corruption in the lobbying process. "Single-issue" groups convey a sense of narrow selfishness pursued at the expense of the larger good. On the other hand, the activities of lobbies regarding various aspects of foreign policy in the last quarter of the twentieth century made the policy process far more transparent than ever before. The need to protect the national security information that lay at the heart of foreign policy generated an elaborate security mechanism, but it also gave rise to its antithesisgrowing public pressure for freedom of information and "government in the sunshine."

Lobbies, including those representing single-issue groups, are after all only giving necessary expression to an articulate and committed engagement with the democratic process. They have become another kind of check and balance to the branches of government beyond those provided by the Constitution. Lobbies and the government have been exploring various ways by which the rulers and ruled can get along. The public, for better or worse, has become interested and engaged in thinking and speaking about foreign policy. Many Americans, defining themselves in terms of economic, ideological, and ethnic loyalties and interests rather than the more traditional party preferences and geographic residences, have gravitated to those advocacy groups that allow them more effectively to inform elected and appointed officials about their particular views on foreign policy.

On the positive side, lobbies have contributed to the emergence of more durable foreign policies based on the interests and involvement of a broad range of people rather than those of a handful of top leaders. It can be argued that American foreign affairs officials blundered more often when they operated secretly than when they engaged interest groups and developed broader consensual policies that were more likely to have sustained understanding and support. At the least, lobbies present information and articulate issues in a manner that the executive branch cannot provide because of traditional political logrolling or concealment behind the shield of national security. They also reflect the interests of an increasingly well-informed American public more concerned with the moral and humanitarian concerns of foreign policy than with strategic considerations of traditional diplomacy, most of which faded with the end of the Cold War. Moreover, foreign powers have learned to live with the vagaries of American foreign policy as influenced and conditioned by frequent elections, ethnic group sensitivities, and an independent legislature.

Perhaps the balance of lobbies and government, however messy it can sometimes be, is the best sign of a vital democracy dealing with circumstances hardly envisaged by the Founders of our nation. The danger exists, of course, that one side or the other will gain an excessive advantage. The government, both the executive branch and Congress, is learning to cope with, and perhaps even exploit, the proliferating lobbies and interest groups. Surely the greater danger would be the stifling of full public debate of foreign policies in the name of narrowly or secretly defined national interests and national security. The challenge is for government to use the information and resources so willingly provided by the myriad lobbies operating in the foreign affairs field to make informed and wise decisions for the nation and the world.


Cigler, Allan J., and Burdett A. Loomis, eds. "Interest Group Politics." Congressional Quarterly. Washington, D.C., 1995. The basic collection of essays by experts on the workings of interest groups and their lobbies.

Cohen, Bernard C. The Public's Impact on Foreign Policy. Boston, 1973. The classic description of how the activities of interest groups were seen by mid-level diplomats.

DeConde, Alexander. Ethnicity, Race, and Foreign Policy: A History. Boston, 1992. The best survey on the role of ethnicity in American foreign affairs.

Deese, David A. The New Politics of American Foreign Policy. New York, 1994. The impact of special interest groups and their lobbies appear in all of the aspects of the "new politics" that are closely examined by a group of experts.

Fisher, Louis. Presidential War Powers. Lawrence, Kans., 1995. The basic study of the origins and development of the congressional assertion of control of presidential war powers, a key element in the emergence of foreign affairs lobbies.

Franck, Thomas M., and Edward Weisband. Foreign Policy by Congress. New York, 1979. A close examination of how Congress came to share foreign policymaking with the executive branch and how human rights and other lobbies took advantage of this fact.

Holsti, Ole R. Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1996.

Pastor, Robert A. Congress and the Politics of U.S. Foreign Economic Policy, 19291976. Berkeley, Calif., 1980. Provides valuable insights and examples of the role of interest groups in the evolution of American tariff and foreign economic policies.

Patterson, Mark. "The Presidency and Organized Interest Group Liaison." American Political Science Review 86 (September 1992): 612625. An authoritative study of how presidents use interest groups.

Schoultz, Lars. Human Rights and United States Policy Toward Latin America. Princeton, N.J., 1981. Includes an extensive review and analysis of major human rights interest groups and their lobbies.

Small, Melvin. Democracy and Diplomacy: The Impact of Domestic Politics on U.S. Foreign Policy, 17891994. Baltimore, 1996. An outstanding historical summary and analysis of the domestic influences on foreign policy, including the role of interest groups.

Smith, Tony. Foreign Attachments: The Power of Ethnic Groups in the Making of American Foreign Policy. Cambridge, Mass., 2000.

Stalcup, Brenda, ed. The Women's Rights Movement: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego, Calif., 1996.

Wittner, Lawrence S. The Struggle against the Bomb. 2 vols. Stanford, Calif., 1994, 1997. The indispensable guide to the rise and activities of a major interest group that changed everything.

See also African Americans; The China Lobby; Congressional Power; Consortia; Environmental Diplomacy; Human Rights; Multinational Corporations; Organized Labor; Power Politics; The Press; Race and Ethnicity.

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