Political Science 313
Public Power of Interest Groups

Course Syllabus
Fall 2003
TR 1:30 - 2:45 p.m. in 793 SWKT

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 752 SWKT
Office Hours: TR 4:30-5:30 p.m., or by appointment
Phone: 422-9136
e-mail: goodliffe@byu.edu


Home Page
Office Hours
Academic Honesty and Plagiarism
Course Outline and Schedule

Home Page

The home page for Political Science 313 is http://fhss.byu.edu/PolSci/Goodliffe/313/. Check the home page often for announcements, corrections, instructions for assignments, syllabus, etc. You should also check your email regularly.

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Tuesday and Thursday 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. I am also available at most other times if you make arrangements with me. Feel free to talk to me after class, or to contact me by email or voice mail. I encourage you to come by to talk about assignments in the class, suggestions for improving the class, politics and current events, the perils of student life, or for any other reason.


It is understood that students enrolled in this class will have taken at a minimum Political Science 110 (Introduction to American Politics) and Political Science 200 (Political Inquiry). Thus, I expect all students to have a working knowledge of American politics, and to know how to write (an academic research paper). If you have not taken both of those courses, take this course after you have. Without these prerequisites, it will be more difficult to succeed in this course.

It will also be of great benefit to have taken Economics 110 or Political Science 205.


This course is an introduction to interest groups and their role in American politics. It will consider ways to evaluate interest groups systematically and rigorously. The course will examine the following questions:

  1. How do interest groups get started, and how do they maintain themselves?
  2. Why do people join interest groups, and who is likely to be a member?
  3. What do interest groups want?
  4. How and when do interest groups lobby?
  5. How does money affect public policy?
  6. How do interest groups affect elections?
  7. What are the effects of lobbying on public policy and democracy?
  8. Are interest groups good or bad?


The course will be conducted as a seminar. Students will rotate presenting and leading the discussion of the readings. Students who are not presenting will be required to write a short response paper about the readings and participate actively. Therefore, it is incumbent that you have read the material to be discussed during each class period prior to the class. You should anticipate that the discussion leaders and I will call on you to contribute your opinion.

I actively encourage questions, interruptions, cries for help, protests of disbelief, etc. You will never be penalized for participating--even when this takes the form of vague complaints like, "I've got no clue why we are reading this stuff!" I urge--indeed, I expect--you to take advantage of the chance to talk with me during office hours.


A Chinese proverb (supposedly) says, "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand." This philosophy drives the requirements of the class.

Reading Responses


Discussion Leading


Class Participation


Midterm Exam 1


Midterm Exam 2 20%
Final Exam 40%
Extra Credit Paper + 1 to 5%


Nearly all of the readings for the course are from professional research journals and academic books (as opposed to pre-digested textbook versions). We will generally be reading two articles or chapters per class.

Reading Responses

Before each class, you are required to send me a short email (2-3 paragraphs) for the readings for that class. The email is due at 6 a.m. the day we discuss the material. The first one or two paragraphs should explicate the arguments of the readings, including such things as independent and dependent variables and causal mechanisms; and assess the evidence, summarizing what the data are and how well they support the authors' arguments. The last paragraph needs to show your independent, critical thought, and can take (at least) one of the following four forms:

  1. Intra-class connection. Example: Today’s reading reminded me of the earlier essay by….The connection I see is…Today’s author reads the evidence differently because…
  2. Cross-curriculum connections. Example: Today’s reading got me thinking about a similar problem in my economics class….
  3. Data connections. Example: Today’s reading implied that all politicians are corrupt, yet The New York Times today carried a story about a Senator who was retiring to spend more time with her family, calling into question the author's initial assumption….
  4. Puzzlement. Example: Today’s reading discussed how special interests invest in incumbents. But we read something earlier by the same author that said that special interests were essentially uninterested in such behavior. How can these both be right?

Other means, beyond these four forms, of showing your independent thought and analysis will also be fine, provided your thoughts are organized and clearly expressed, and that you are making connections between ideas.

I will provide feedback on how you are doing on the emails at a few points in the semester, but a far better way to have them evaluated is to print them, bring them to class, and use them as the basis for our discussions. In addition, they are also a chance to explore ideas without the pressure of expanding them into full papers, though it is likely that some arguments used in great papers may will get their start as smart emails.

You should submit emails for each reading assignment every day that we have a reading assignment, except when you are leading class discussion. Each student can skip two emails without penalty. You should feel free to discuss the readings together before composing the emails. Collaboration and discussion is encouraged. However, you will be graded on your independence of thought in your analysis, so copying each other’s work will be penalized severely.

Discussion Leading

Several times during the semester, each student will have the opportunity to lead class discussion on the readings. In this presentation, you must use some sort of visual aid (e.g. poster, overhead slides, PowerPoint, etc.). Presenting students may wish to meet with me before presenting their readings. You should spend much more time on analysis than on summary (5 minutes or so). More details on what I expect in leading class discussion are found here.

Class Participation

Since this class is a seminar, students should be ready to engage one another in discussion. Of course, in order to participate, one needs to attend class. Participation consists of listening attentively, asking and responding to thought-provoking questions, and bringing up relevant points discussed in your reading response. Active, collaborative learning (i.e. learning by group participation) not only enhances your education, but is more interesting to both student and instructor.

You are responsible for any announcements made in class even if you did not attend. I suggest that you exchange phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses with other students in the class.


There will be two midterm exams taken in class during the semester that cover about 5 weeks' material, and a final examination that will be comprehensive. The final exam will be administered on Tuesday, December 16 in our classroom from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. (as noted on the final exam schedule). Do not ask to take the final examination early. It is against university policy to give final examinations outside of the scheduled time. You should not make any plans that interfere with the final exam schedule. Please do not ask for exceptions. I am not authorized to grant them.

You may bring any notes that you have written yourself into the exam (i.e., you may not bring anyone else's notes, the text, or any articles). The exam will consist primarily of short-answer identification questions and essay questions that assess the skills listed in Objectives. The examination will be difficult. I expect you to be able to apply the material that we have covered in class and to explain various concepts. You will have the opportunity to suggest questions for the exam here. The final exams may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. All exams will be discarded at the end of the Winter 2004 semester.

Extra Credit Paper

Those so inclined may write an extra credit paper (roughly 16-20 pages) on an interest group that actively participated in the 2002 congressional elections. I am particularly interested in groups that are active in the Utah congressional elections. In consultation with the instructor, the student will select a group that actively participated (through issue advocacy and independent expenditures) in previous elections and is predicted to actively participate in 2004 as well. (No two students may study the same group.) The student should develop detailed factual knowledge--the idea is to become an expert on your specific group. In particular, you should have details about how the organization makes internal decisions, where it gets money, where it spent its money in previous elections, where it spent its money in 2002, etc. You may want to call or write the organization directly for information.

Depending upon the quality of the paper, the student's overall average will be increased by 1 to 5 points (out of 100). Thus, a solid B student who has an 85 average but does a stellar paper will be bumped up to a 90 and receive an A- for a final grade; a competent but less noteworthy job might bump one from a B to a B+. A stellar paper will apply theories we have discussed in class, point out strengths and shortcomings of the theory, suggest revisions of the theory based on the case studied, and integrate the case with the readings. A less noteworthy job will emphasize description of the group over application of the theories. As with all writing, I will also evaluate the logic and organization of the paper, as well as spelling and grammar. I strongly recommend that you consult with me through all phases of your research. Students taking advantage of this option should also expect to give a short presentation to the class at the end of the semester as well.

The paper is due at the beginning of the last day of class. If you cannot make it to class, please leave the assignment with the department secretaries (in the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. You may also submit your papers via email (as an attachment). I will deduct a 1/2 point per day (including weekends) for late papers (on a 5 point scale). That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting the paper when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement. The papers may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. The papers will be discarded at the end of the Winter 2003 semester.

How to Succeed in this Course

I do not grade on a curve.

I include the following information from the BYU 2003-2004 Undergraduate Catalog which guides how I grade and determine workload:

"The grade given in a course is the teacher's evaluation of the student's performance, achievement, and understanding in that subject as covered in the class. The following adjectives indicate the meaning of the letter grades:
A Excellent
B Good
C Satisfactory
D Minimum passing
E Unacceptable
"Hence, the grade A means that the student's performance, achievement, and understanding were excellent in the portion of the subject covered in the class.
"There are prerequisites that qualify students to be admitted to the more advanced classes offered by a department. A senior has added experience, understanding, and preparation and, consequently, progresses in courses that would have been impossible when the student was a freshman. The level of performance, achievement, and understanding required to qualify for each grade that carries credit (any grade other than E, UW, I, IE, or WE) is higher in a more advanced class than in those classes that precede it, and the student is prepared to work at this higher level" (p. 48).
"The expectation for undergraduate courses is three hours of work per week per credit hour for the average student who is appropriately prepared; much more time may be required to achieve excellence" (p. 46).

Putting these statements together, the university expects an "average student" to work "much more" than 9 hours a week to receive an 'A' (= "excellence") in a 3 credit-hour course. This is my expectation as well.

This workload has been affirmed by President Bateman in two of his recent devotional addresses. On 7 September 1999, he stated, "It takes approximately three hours of study outside class for every hour in the classroom. If you take 15 hours of credit, you should allocate upward of 45 hours for study per week." On 19 September 2000, he advised, "Study daily--at least three hours for every hour in class."

Students who have succeeded in this course have the following characteristics. They

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

From the Academic Honesty section of the BYU Honor Code: "The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to `be honest.' Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. `President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education' (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim.

"BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct." Read the full version here (parts attached to the original paper syllabus).

A colleague (Professor Mitch Sanders of Notre Dame) has already explicated these issues specifically for political science. Please read here (also attached to the original paper syllabus).

If you write a paper for another course (past or present) that uses the same topic as a paper for this course, you need to approve it with me first, and then you must turn in to me a copy of the paper from your other course.


Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU’s policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 422-2847.

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the University Accessibility Center (422-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the UAC office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 422-5895, D-282 ASB.


It is essential that you keep up with the reading. Indeed, I expect you to have completed reading assignments before the class in which we discuss it (thus, the reading responses). The exams draw directly on the required readings: I have the right to ask about things on the exams that were only covered in the readings. The vast majority of the readings are from the six required texts (all available in the bookstore); copies of the books (if available) and a few additional readings are also on reserve at the Lee Library. Some readings may also be accessed through the internet, or will be made available for photocopying. Accordingly, the following books are in the bookstore:

(You can also obtain these books through an on-line bookstore. The following websites search out several bookstores simultaneously: TextbookLand.com or AllBookStores.com or Campusbooks4less.com or StudentMarket.com.)

Some other readings are from journal articles or book chapters. These will be available for checkout (and to photocopy) in the Department of Political Science office (745 SWKT). As the office keeps regular business hours (8 a.m. - 5 p.m.), please plan ahead to obtain the readings. There will also be an opportunity to copy all of the readings (besides the books) at once. Some of these readings may also be accessed through the internet via links provided below (on a BYU computer, or off-campus, if you know how to work through the library off-campus access).

You should read a national newspaper daily. Knowledge of current events will help you in your exams, (extra-credit) paper, and active participation in class. I suggest subscribing to a national paper, or at the very least, reading on the web the national news of The New York Times (free with registration), The Washington Post (free), The Los Angeles Times (free with registration), or The Wall Street Journal (not free).

I may add or subtract readings during the semester, as the campaign finance terrain is constantly shifting in the United States, and relevant academic studies may be published after the course has started. If I find something that provides greater insight or additional knowledge to our subject, I will add or substitute the reading.

Course Outline and Schedule

Why Study Groups? (September 2 - 4)

Group Theories (September 9)

Development of the Interest Group System (September 11)

The Interest Group System Today (September 16 - 18)

Formation and Maintenance of Groups (September 23 - October 7)

Midterm 1 (October 9)

Strategies of Interest Groups (October 14 - 16)

Interest Groups and the Executive Branch and the Courts (October 21 - 23)

Interest Groups and Congress (October 28 - 30)

Elections and Political Action Committees (November 4 - 11)

Midterm 2 (November 13)

Campaign Finance--Regulation and Reform (November 18 - 20)

Public Policy (December 2 - 4)

Systemic Impact (December 9 - 11)


Some parts of this syllabus are drawn from Larry Rothenberg's syllabus (with his permission), with ideas used from Ken Godwin's as well.

Political Science 313 home page

Jay Goodliffe's home page

This page is http://fhss.byu.edu/polsci/Goodliffe/313/syllabus.htm