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Interest Groups & Public Policy

  Note: Resources that are preceded with a call number are located in the Reference Stacks on the main floor of Cook Library.
  Background Sources

Guide to Interest Groups and Lobbying in the United States 2012

  • Requires TU NetID to access from off campus
  • Traces the history and development of advocacy groups in the U.S.
  • Covers theoretical approaches and the relation of interest groups to growth of government, lobbying in D.C. and beyond, and campaign finance
  • Includes a section on overview of groups by sector and type such as: agriculture, business, defense, civil rights, religion, energy, etc.
  • Each article is accompanied by notes and each chapter, by a bibliography

Lobbying in America: A Reference Handbook 2009

  • Requires TU NetID to access from off campus
  • Includes: Background and History; Problems, Controversies, and Solutions; and Worldwide Perspective
  • Reference material include: Tables (with data through 2008); Chronology; Biographical Sketches; Data and Documents (primary sources); Directory of Organizations, Associations, and Agencies; Selected Bibliography; and Glossary
  • Check Part IV: Interest Groups by Sector and Type, for  brief introductions to lobbying efforts by topic

International Encyclopedia of Public Policy
. [Shafritz] 4v. 1998
Includes articles on Interest Groups and Lobbying and concepts related to public policy.


Encyclopedia of American Public Policy
. 1999
Entries arranged alphabetically under key concepts or issues such as agriculture, civil rights, commerce & transportation, education, energy, health, and labor.


Public Policy Dictionary
. 1987
Entries arranged alphabetically within the topics of nature, formulation, implementation, types, evaluation, and impact of public policy.


Elections A to Z
. 1999
Includes articles on Interest Groups and Polical Action Committees.


Guide to Political Campaigns in America
. [CQ] 2005

  • See article on "Interest Groups", pp.199 ff.
  • Provides brief historical background on interest groups and PACs, activities & resources, strategies & decision making, and impact
  • Includes an extensive bibliography of resources from books, journals, newspapers, and Web sites

Guide to Congress
. [CQ] 2v. 2008
See "Lobbying", pp.805 ff.



Guide to the Presidency
. [CQ] 2v. 2008
See "The President and Interest Groups", pp.1035 ff.


Check in the Catalog, found at http://cooklibrary.towson.edu under the subjects Pressure Groups and/or Lobbying or the full name of the group (e.g. National Organization for Women, rather than NOW).


Super PACs [OpenSecrets.org]

  • Center for Responsive Politics, which sponsors this site, tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy
  • Use this list to identify groups that sponsor campaign ads

Political Advocacy Groups: A Directory of United States Lobbyists

  • Links to organizations arranged by their primary cause. Site created by Kathi Fountain, Reference Librarian at Vancouver Library, Washington State University.

Idealist.org: Action Without Borders

  • Select an AREA OF FOCUS. Can select further by country, state, or local.

Yahoo: Issues & Causes

  • To find the home pages of organizations arranged by their primary cause, click on an issue or cause of interest, then on the link for Organizations.

Yahoo: Interest Groups

  • Lists lobbying groups and PACs.

Advocacy Group Spending in the Elections

  • Includes major 501(c)s, 527s, non-federals, and PACs that have contributed to the 2004 - 2008 campaigns, identifying issues of concern and amounts contributed.

Public Interest Group Profiles, 2006-2007
[Congressional Quarterly]

  • Covers over 200 of "America's most influential public affairs groups" and their contact information, mission, membership, budget, publications, political orientation, PAC, current concerns, and effectiveness as determined by "third-party sources".

Encyclopedia of Associations

  • Lists over 23,000 nonprofit American organizations, including contact information, Web address, membership, budget, publications and a brief description of their focus. Arranged by topic with an alphabetical index.


Encyclopedia of Associations: Regional, State, and Local Organizations

  • Lists over 129,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations, including contact information, Web address, membership, budget, publications, national affilations, and descriptions of their focus. Arranged by city and state with alphabetical and keyword indexes.

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Issues & Elections

For overviews of issues, try one or more of the following:

  • CQ Researcher provides articles on controversial topics. Each article is focused on answering a question. Articles include an overview, background, current situation, outlook , pro/con, chronology and bibliography citing books, articles, and websites. Requires TU NetID for off-campus access.
  • Sage Reference Online and Gale Virtual Reference Library are collections of subject encyclopedia articles covering a broad range of disciplines and perspectives including: political; legal; religious; moral & ethical; social; and medical. Most articles are accompanied by a list of suggested readings. Require TU NetID for off-campus access.

Policy Agendas Project

  • Use datasets to "trace changes in the national policy agenda and public policy outcomes" since WWII - from the website
  • Datasets used include: Congressional and Presidential publications; Supreme Court cases; interest groups; New York Times; and the Federal budget
  • Search topics such as civil rights, health, immigration, environment, crime & family issues, banking, defense, foreign aid and space, using Trend Analysis to look at topics

FactCheck [Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania]

  • Mission of this site is "to monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases." - from the Web site
  • Provides summary and analysis of "hot" issues that are currently being addressed by politicians with links to statistical and news sources that support the analysis
  • Archives go back to December 2003

Pew Center on the States

  • Searchable by state or by issues such as cities, economy, election administration, families, federal impact, health, housing, public safety, retirement, revenue & spending, and technology
  • Use the search feature for specific topics such as immigration, same-sex marriage, death penalty, and stem cell research 
  • Select a state and issue in Stateline section, which provides summaries of current activity in state legislatures on various issues
  • Visit the State Resources section for additional information sources by state 

National Conference of State Legislatures

  • Identifies issue areas of interest at the state and national level, providing a wealth of information on each topic including current news, statistics, and charts comparing laws state-by-state
  • Hang over the RESEARCH tab and choose a topic
    • Great starting place for an overview of "hot" issues such as stem cell research, internet privacy, welfare reform, immigration, No Child Left Behind, among others

Public Agenda Online:The Inside Source for Public Opinion & Policy Analysis

  • Nonpartisan briefing on policy issues, supplemented by polling data, and a list of concerned PACS and advocacy groups
  • Click on Issue Guides on the menu bar for a list of "hot" issues overviews that include facts, trends & statistics, pros & cons, major players, and public opinion
    • Links to related sources of information on an issue such as polling organizations

Politics1: Online Guide to Hot Issues & Debates

  • Links to political organizations arranged by political ideology: Right, Left, Libertarian, Radical
  • Interest groups listed under issues such as campaign & political reform, environment, foreign relations, health care, and immigration

Project Vote Smart

  • This site does not work well in IE, so use Firefox
  • Select an Issue category at the national or state level and see information on key votes, public statements, interest group ratings or ballot measures
  • Search legislation by year
  • Search for national special interest groups arranged under major issues

SpeakOut.com: Politics, Activism, Political Issues, Government, and Elections

  • Check out Issues to look at some possible research questions (and pros & cons) regarding issues such as: abortion; death penalty; gay rights; gun control; religion and morality; environment; healthcare; and technology

Open CRS:Congressional Research Reports for the People

  • Prepared by staff of the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service and are intended to provide an overview of the legislative topics being addressed by the U.S. Congress
  • Intended to provide fact-rich, unbiased, non-technical background information on policy issues
  • Web site allows keyword searching of and provides summaries for over 8,000 CRS Reports that are available through various repositories sponsored by organizations such as National Council on Science and the Environment, Federation of American Scientists, and Thurgood Marshall Law Library at University of Maryland School of Law
  • zFacts is another service that provides access to about 16,000 research reports.
  • University of North Texas Libraries includes CRS reports back to 1990.
Campaign Ads & Contributions

Try checking YouTube for campaign ads using strategies such as the name of the candidate and the phrase "campaign ad " or "campaign advertisement". Also check the campaign websites of the candidates or super PACS websites looking under sections such as media, press, advocacy, or legislative action.

Try a Google search on the PAC name and look for references to campaign ads in the articles that you find, then follow the leads.



Tracking TV Ads in the Presidential Campaign [Washington Post]

  • Special Mad Money feature for Campaign 2012

FactCheck [Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania]

  • Use this site to check the factual accuracy of what is presented in TV ads - try searching by candidate or by super PAC


  • Presidential ads from 1960 to current

Political Communication Lab [Stanford University]

  • Provides examples of political ads from California for local and national candidates covering the years 1994 to current

The Living Room Candidate

  • Presidential campaign commercials covering the years 1952 to 2008
  • Searchable by year, type of commercial, or issue

EASE History: Campaign Ads

  • Presidential campaign ads from 1952 - 2004
  • Searchable by year, candidate, political party, winner/loser, challenger/incumbent, issues, positive/negative, ad theme, and presidential leadership attributes

Swift Boat Veterans

  • These ads drew a lot of attention for the image that they portrayed of Kerry in 2004

LobbyWatch [Center for Public Integrity]

  • Monitors the funding of state and federal elections, including lobbyist campaign donations
  • Visit Consider the Source to read profiles on Super PACs including their principals, mission, top donors, and advertisements - search by super donor, candidates, or super PACS
  Campaign Finance Reports and Data [Federal Election Commission]



FollowTheMoney [National Institute on Money in State Politics]

  • Tracks donations by lobbyists and industries by year, political party, candidate, and geographic location
  • Includes spending summaries for Presidential and Congressional elections
  • Election data from 1998 to date
Political News

POLITICO: Politics, Political News

  • Check the link on Policy for articles on topics such as money, health care, energy & environment, and defense

RealClear Politics

  • Check the link on Policy for articles on topics such as the economy, health care, environment & energy, immigration, education, debt background, and social policy

On Politics [Washington Post]

To Top

Online Databases available through Cook Library home page
Off-campus access to the following research databases requires the TU NetID login.



Academic Search
Search for citations, abstracts and some full text articles from magazines and journals in various disciplines including Political Science, Law and History.
Note: The truncation symbol in this database is *. For example, environment* = environment, environments, environmental

  • Search Academic Search [Ebsco] and Social Sciences Abstracts [Ebsco] together by going into Academic Search , and selecting the appropriate databases using the dropdown menu and clicking on [Submit].Then click on the Advanced Search tab and on the resulting screen, type in the full name of an organization (no abbreviations) or an issue. Academic Search indexes scholarly (peer-reviewed) journals, news magazines, and the New York Times.
  • Social Sciences Abstracts indexes a broad selection of journals in the Social Sciences.

LexisNexis Academic
For U. S. Newspapers: Click on the blue News button and select Newspapers & Wires and check off Major Newspapers or Newspapers, if you want smaller local US newspapers. Provides full text of major newspapers including New York Times (1980 - ) and Washington Post (1977 - ) and also other local newspapers like the Baltimore Sun (last 6 months only), Charleston Daily Mail, Houston Press.

Note: The truncation symbol in this database is !. For example, For example, senat! = senate, senate's, senatorial

Note: To restrict your search to a specific time period, change All available dates to a shortened time period or specific dates. Once you have a list of results, you may want to click on Sort by: Relevance to change the arrangement of results so that the "best" articles are listed first, instead of the "most current" or to Chronological, which arranges the oldest articles first.

For State/Local Newspapers & News Services: LexisNexis is a good place to start when looking for a local perspective on local issues and interest group activities that might not be covered at the national level.

  • Once in LexisNexis, click on the blue Sources button.
  • Click on Browse Sources, change All Countries to United States and then All Regions to a specfic state.
  • Below this on the web page, click on the publication type News.
  • Check the box next to a city's state News Sources (e.g. for Pittsburgh, search Pennsylvania News Sources)
  • Click on the red box that says OK- Continue.
  • On the resulting search screen, make sure to search the section segment - HLEAD (which means Headline & lead paragraph).
  • Search for organizations by both the full name of the organization and its initials, connecting the two forms by the word 'or'. (e.g. pirg or public interest research groups).

Note: Probably the best place to look for articles about state organizations and their activities, as it provides full text of newspapers from across the country. However, use National Newspapers database to check the Sun back to 1837 and the New York Times back to 1857.


National Newspapers

  • Provides full text of the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor.
  • Most papers are included from the mid-1980s to date; click on Publications to search for an individual paper
  • Use Advanced Search screen to limit to date/s or to search for your words in the title or lead paragraph (abstract) of an article

The URL for this Web page is http://pages.towson.edu/sara/interest.html
See also:

Congress at http://pages.towson.edu/sara/congress.html
Environmental Policy at http://pages.towson.edu/sara/enviro.html

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