In Charlottesville, special interest groups are essential for ensuring that citizens' voices are heard by policy makers. From animal rights to environmental protection, from low-paid professional workers to unions, these groups play a major role in politics. They are organized as public interest groups, professional associations, and political action committees (PACs). Public interest groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Greenpeace are not working in their own interest but in the best interest of the public.
Professional associations like the United States Bar Association, American Medical Association, National Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers represent low-paid professional workers. Unions like the AFL-CIO and the Truckers Union protect workers in factories or businesses. Interest groups send representatives to state capitals and to Washington, D. C., to pressure members of Congress and other policy makers.
They participate in lobbying or in the organized process of influencing legislation or policy. Interest groups can testify at congressional hearings and contact government officials directly or informally. They present research results and technical information, talk to people in the press and media, and sometimes even help draft laws. Political action committees (PACs) are special political arms for interest groups.
PACs have changed the face of US elections by allowing taxpayers to issue them checks specifically for the purpose of donating to campaigns. For example, if a person wants to support candidates who oppose gun control, they can contribute to the PAC that represents the National Rifle Association. They are actively involved in lobbying and political campaigns, providing an invaluable service to the community.