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The Sierra Club

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Mackenzie Snyder

on 12 March 2014

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Transcript of The Sierra Club

What is an Interest Group?
A formal organization of people who share a common goal or social circumstance and who band together in the hope of influencing government policy
Historic Overview
Founded by legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892
Interest Group Strategies
The Sierra Club's Primary Tactic
- Grassroots Lobbying-
Why the Grassroots Movement?
The Sierra Club originally consisted of lower class "tree-huggers" and "nature-lovers" who were affected more significantly - therefore, a grassroots movement was the most feasible option to achieve their goals as they lacked the funds and particular expertise for campaigns and lobbying (financially weak)
Mass mobilization makes issues more transparent to the nation and consequently to congressmen and the government
The Sierra Club
"Explore, Enjoy, and
Protect the Environment"

Goals
The fundamental goal is to find alternative sources of energy to make America more environmentally sufficient. Due to its multi-issue nature, the Club focuses its efforts in five major campaigns - "Beyond Coal", "Beyond Oil", "Beyond Natural Gas", "Our Wild America", and "Sierra Club Outdoors".
The Sierra Club is a multi-issue interest group, which means it represents citizens who are primarily concerned with a range of policies or social problems.
The Sierra Club as an Interest Group
The Sierra Club is the largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than two million members and supporters.
Reform movement began as an association to protect the Sierra Nevada in 1889 and grew to the national environmental interest group
1905: The California Legislature agreed to return Yosemite Valley to federal management - the Club's first victory
1921: The Club urged the purchase of the redwood forest in California for a state park
1964: The Club passed the Wilderness Act, which was the first wilderness protection legislation in the world
1968: The Club succeeded in campaigning to stop the building of dams in the Grand Canyon and in establishing Redwoods National Park
1970: Congress enacts the National Environmental Policy Act, which established the EPA.
Contemporary Campaigns
- "Beyond Oil" -
The "Beyond Oil" objective is to block the most dangerous oil projects and to revoke the oil industry's license to operate above the law, to eliminate the outsized influence of the oil industry, to raise and defend strong fuel efficiency and pollution standards, to accelerate the transition to cleaner cars by promoting electric vehicles, and to increase access to oil-free transportation.
Congressional Lobbying
The use of direct contact and other organized efforts to influence policy makers and legislation
Because they have expertise...
Direct contact with government official to offer expertise and opinion
Testifying at legislative hearings
Helping draft legislation (rules, regulations, and guidelines)
Conduct studies and write reports to gain access
Can easily influence and contact congressional insiders

Because they have perks...
Astro-turf Lobbying: Using the media as a forum to generate pressure and interest
Grass-tops: Having influential constituents and colleagues contact legislators office
Monetary contributions and endorsement of candidates to ensure election of certain officials who support their issues
Host luncheons, dinners, and other forums to provide the public with access to information
Grassroots Lobbying/Mass Mobilization
The rallying of group members and the bottom level of the public behind a group's cause - suggests non-hierarchical, organic movement
Grassroots lobbying is typically used by groups with lesser funding, as identification of broad popular support is their key goal (passion and numbers translates to exponential votes)
Political ads in newspapers, on the radio, on T.V., and on the web - these methods are cost effective which is often a requirement for grassroots movements
Utilization of public forums such as speeches, seminars, civic organizations, free concerts, etc.
Door to door informational/petition drives
Letters and electronic campaigns targeting members and the public
"Fly ins"
Member report cards and legislative tracking to make congressional activities transparent
Voter registration or Get Out the Vote activities
Prestigious members of the Sierra Club who have connections in Congress are able to lobby their interests in environmental reform, as seen in the Wilderness Act
The Sierra Club
This is the primary tactic utilized by the Sierra Club and will be discussed in further slides.
The Sierra Club
Campaign Contributions
The Sierra Club has 2 million members, a generally small number compared to other national interest groups
Member Benefits:
National outings, tours and treks; local outdoor adventures; trips for the military, veterans, and their families; an extensive club store with clothing and accessories; subscription to Sierra Magazine; exclusive discounts on Travelocity and Columbia; and volunteer leader training
All funds raised in order to promote candidates, political parties, or policies in elections, referendums, initiatives, party activities, and party organizations.
Interest groups are able to provide large sums to candidates with monetary contributions and endorsement of specific candidates through Political Action Committees
The Sierra Club Contributions
Per election, the Sierra Club spends an average of $510,000 in campaign contributions - giving the club a rank of 150 out of 12,890 total interest groups
The total of contributions to candidates from Sierra Club PACs is two times larger than contributions from individuals
Depending on the strengths of an interest group, the ratio of campaign contributions to lobbying in its budget may vary. As an overall trend, groups tend to spend less on outside spending compared to both contributions and lobbying.
Litigation
The process of deliberate orchestration of the courts in initiating and prosecuting a lawsuit to achieve a group's desired social, legal, or political change
Direct Sponsorship: an interest group is an active party in a case with the role of a plaintiff or a defendant
Indirect Sponsorship: an interest group may submit an Amicus Curiae brief in order to raise additional arguments in an attempt to influence the decision of a court
Influence the nomination of certain candidates for court positions for or against their issue's cause
Typically used if the issue is legal in nature and if the group fails to gain broad popular support and Congress is unreceptive. Litigation allows a group to maximize limited resources such as low membership or funds and it has the potential of sweeping and immediate national impact.
Timeline
Broad popular support throughout the nation due to the emotional nature and the prevalence of the issues results in high numbers and high motivation
Environmental protection is an issue everywhere in America - both cities and rural areas
Can accomplish more by mass mobilization than by lobbying directly to Congress
The public can make personal changes in order to achieve the Sierra Club's goals - thus, legislation is not necessary in some cases
Environmental protection will always be a forthcoming issue in all levels of government
Creates an exponential effect as passions and numbers translate to exponential votes in favor of environmental reform
A single lobbyist represents one advocate to bring pressure, whereas grassroots movements represent thousands
Why Not Litigation?
Although not a primary tactic, litigation has sometimes been an effective strategy for the group. Amicus Curiae briefs submitted by the club have often resulted in court decisions in their interests' favor in cases such as protecting forests and preventing dams in national parks
Why Not Lobbying?
The Sierra Club does not have a narrow set of interests which successful lobbying requires. They are a multi-issue group whose membership is not necessarily made up of experts/insiders
Why Not Campaign
Contributions?
Environmental reform is not a primary platform focus for either congressional or presidential candidates, and thus not many people focus on spending a lot of money to campaign for it. Also, the Sierra Club doesn't have a lot of "fat cats" and the people most affected by environmental issues are farmers or rural citizens who lack funds to donate
Mackenzie Snyder & Nicole Lacasse
Full transcript