1st Edition

Interest Group Design
The Foundation and Evolution of Common Cause

ISBN 9781032092171
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
228 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

In Interest Group Design, Marcie L. Reynolds examines the evolution of Common Cause, the first national government reform lobby. Founded in 1970 by John W. Gardner, the organization gained influence with Congress and established an organizational culture that lasted several decades. External and internal environmental changes led to mounting crises and by 2000 Common Cause's survival was in question. Yet fifteen years later Common Cause is a renewed organization, with evidence of revival across the United States. Empirical evidence suggests how Common Cause changed its interest group design but kept its identity in order to survive.  

Utilizing a mixed-methods approach to frame and analyze the history of Common Cause, Reynolds provides a lens for studying how key aspects of the U.S. political system—interest groups, collective action, lobbying, and representation—work as environments change. She extends work by previous scholars Andrew S. McFarland (1984) and Lawrence Rothenberg (1992) creating a sequence of analytical research about one interest group spanning almost fifty years, a unique contribution to political science. 

This thoroughly researched and comprehensive book will be of great interest to those who study political participation and organizational change.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Gardner’s Influence—Rules of the Game (1970 to 1995)

3. Crises—The Game Changes (mid-1990s to 2007)

4. Renewal—Playing by New Rules (2007-2015)

5. Pockets of Revitalization—Illinois and Texas Comparison

6. Commitment to Campaign Finance Reform

7. Representing a Public Interest

8. Conclusion


Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

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Marcie L. Reynolds is a faculty member at Tarleton State University,

Texas. Her research interests and community service center around civic

engagement and increasing citizens’ understanding of, and involvement

with, the governing structures that surround them.


"Interest Group Design provides an important analysis of a key aspect of our democracy at a time of crisis in our history. Though an in depth case study of Common Cause since 1970, Marcie Reynolds traces the evaluation of a significant national public interest group, neopluralism in America, modern day lobbying, and how interest group politics actually works in the 21st century. It is an essential read for students, scholars, and activists."Dick Simpson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago Alderman

"Dr. Marcie Reynolds’ clear and objective depiction and analysis of the organization design of a major advance in political participation, the citizens’ lobby, Common Cause. Reynolds’ meticulous research traces the entire history of this public interest group, from its design in 1970-74 by independent organizer John W. Gardner, to its present-day political activity. Interest Group Design: The Foundation and Evolution of Common Cause makes an important contribution to American political life by showing how citizens can exercise influence beyond elections."Andrew McFarland, Emeritus Professor, Political Science Department, University of Illinois at Chicago

"This detailed and well researched book is more than just a history of Common Cause, though fans of its work will find a lot to like. Dr. Reynolds takes readers on a journey through the organization’s changes, setting this in a broader context of civic engagement, interest group behavior and lobbying, and the broader political trends of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Drawing on original research utilizing archival records, survey data and interviews she effectively traces the emergence, crises and reinvention of this ground breaking public interest group."Rebecca E. Deen, Associate Professor and Chair, University of Texas at Arlington

"This book provides an important new perspective on Common Cause, one of the most theoretically important and innovative citizen groups that emerged after the social movements of the 1960s. Reynolds traces the subsequent organizational changes that nearly led to Common Cause’s extinction, and the path to recovery that is ongoing. The breadth of Reynold’s research is impressive, encompassing surveys of membership, interviews with leaders, and extensive archival work. Through this research she traces a compelling history of Common Cause and its founder, with lessons that current researchers and group organizers would do well to heed."Beth L. Leech, Professor, Department of Political Science, Rutgers University