U.S. Government, Civics, U.S. History
After completing this assignment, students will better understand congressional committees and interest groups. They will learn to assess the significance of the donations to committee members, consider from whom they have come, and how the donations might impact the committee vote on legislation. Students will also learn how interest groups seek to influence politicians.
Have students visit CongressLink to learn basic information about Congress and http://www.congresslink.org/print_basics_leadershippositions.htm to learn about the leadership structure of the House and Senate.
After researching their selected committee, have students complete the following tasks:
1. Committee Name:
2. Who is the Chair of the committee, and briefly describe why you believe this person is qualified to be chair of the committee?
3. Briefly explain the variety of issues the committee examines. Give at least 3 examples, providing enough detail so that you get a healthy idea about what are some of the issues and areas the committee oversees.
4. Pursue the variety of links within the committee page that will help you understand what the committee has accomplished. Make sure to provide at least two specific examples of committee accomplishments (preferably from this session of Congress; if not, highlight “big” and important accomplishments you find mentioned).
5. Find the link from the committee’s main page that links to the Republicans (as the minority members) on the committee. Describe what this tells you about the role and goals of the minority party on the committee.
Instruct students to go to: OpenSecrets to explore the financial donor aspect of committee work.
Have the students use this site and complete the following in reference to their selected committee:
1. Summarize in your own words why you think it’s important to look at the donations that members of congressional committees receive.
2. On the home page, link to Committees and select your committee. From the left-hand column, open the link to Top Industries. List two industries, the amount given, and speculate what those top contributors might be seeking.
3. Continuing to use your same committee, from the left-hand column, open the link to Member Money. Browse through the membership of the committee. Select one Republican and one Democrat from different regions of the nation. Identify whom you have chosen and then assess the significance of the donations they have received, that is, who gave them the donation and how did the donor want the committee to vote.
Instruct students to go to: http://www.twyman-whitney.com/americancitizen/links/lobbies.htm and glance over the page (without clicking further) to see what is there.
Have students skim through the top fifty lobbying groups and click on a link if they need to see in what kind of interest a particular group is represented.
Students should complete the attached chart, Types or Categories of Interest Groups, by identifying and naming five types or categories of interest groups and list at least three specific examples of interest groups within each of the types or categories they named.
After completing the chart, have students complete the following tasks:
1. Assigned Interest Group:
2. 2. Use a search engine such as Google http://www.google.com to find the Web site of your interest group. Spend a few minutes exploring and reading about what this group believes, what it wants to happen in Washington, and how it seeks to influence politicians.
3. List 5 important pieces of information that give us a picture of what your interest group believes.
4. From your research, describe one (preferably current) piece of legislation or a specific policy action your group desires.
5. Who does this group lobby most, or most effectively? Is there a political party or certain congressional representatives who seem to get more of their attention, money, or information? Which committees and sub-committees would they particularly lobby? Why?
Instruct students to go to: http://thomas.loc.gov. Using the 110th Congress, have them find a current piece of legislation that relates either to their assigned interest group or their assigned congressional committee. When they run into terms they do not understand on the Thomas site, have them visit: http://www.congresslink.org/print_teaching_glossary.htm
Once the students have identified a current piece of legislation, have them complete the following:
1. Title of legislation (include its origination or appropriate numbers):
2. Key sponsors and their party affiliation:
3. Bill summary (briefly explain general contents):
4. Comments on its legislative history:
5. Current status:
6. Personal reaction – do you think it will pass and do you think it should pass? Why?
Let’s bring it home. It is time to explore two state senators. Instruct students to find the web sites for their two senators.
After reviewing the web sites, students will complete the attached chart, Comparison of State Senators, completing the following:
1. Briefly read through each senator’s biography and describe why this person is so qualified to be a U.S. senator.
2. Examine a couple of each senator’s recent press releases. What issues concern the senator and do you believe these issues are significant?
3. Find and then open the link to constituent services. What does each senator do on behalf of constituents?4. On what committees does the senator serve? Are these committee assignments in the best interests of their state? Explain.
Internet Access for:
CongressLink - Basic Information about Congress: http://www.congresslink.org/print_basics_congress.htm
CongressLink – Congressional Leadership Information: http://www.congresslink.org/print_basics_leadershippositions.htm
House web site: http://www.house.gov
Senate web site: http://www.senate.gov
Thomas (The Library of Congress): http://thomas.loc.gov
CongressLink Glossary: http://www.congresslink.org/print_teaching_glossary.htm
Attached Chart: Types or Categories of Interest Groups
Attached Chart: Comparison of State SenatorsPaper