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The Power of Interest Groups

DESPITE the criticism special-interest groups receive for putting pressure on government, interest groups per se are not bad, says House Speaker Thomas Foley. ``Citizens are represented not just by us who hold the seats in Congress,'' but also by interest groups, Mr. Foley says. Therefore it's good for there to be a dialogue between members of Congress and interest groups, Foley says.

But special interests exert too much leverage on government, says Senate minority whip Alan Simpson (R) of Wyoming. Too much of government action ``is driven by interest groups who don't give one whit about government,'' but only about their own narrow demands, he says. The outspoken Senator Simpson tells members of interest groups to remember ``that you're citizens first,'' and therefore should be concerned first with the nation's needs, rather than self-directed demands.

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