August is a busy season for interest groups

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) (L) and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) answer a question from the audience during a health care town hall meeting September 14, 2009 at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Late summer is a major season for special interest activism.

Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

Allan Lichtman teaches history at American University.

Heat, sweat, and, now, activists are unavoidable facts of life for members of Congress in August. An army of interest groups has been pushing various causes this month. 

Opponents of President Barack Obama’s health care law are demanding it be defunded. And an unusual coalition of the left and right -- including local police, business groups and church leaders -- is pushing for immigration reformTheir ad campaign cost $400,000, and its organizer Ali Noorani, the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, says you ignore August at your peril.

“Bills will either get closer to the finish line or die on the rocks of despair during the August recess," he says, pointing to nearly 50 immigration roundtables his coalition held this month. “We think we have won the August recess.”

That kind of win-lose talk reminds some Congress watchers of a politician’s campaign.  

“That’s the kind of thing you used to hear only from candidates," says Allan Lichtman, an American University history professor. "So you now have a lobbyist keeping score to see who wins in terms of wielding influence as opposed to getting elected.”

Lichtman says a lot of the interest groups active this August hired Washington political operatives to advise them. They set up war rooms and rapid response teams. August is one big business opportunity for the old Washington hands, who want to impress and attract future clients, according to GOP strategist John Feehery.  

“What they’re doing here is, like anything else, they’re trying to build a resume," he says. "They’re trying to build their case that -- why other people should hire them.”

So they can win August.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

Ali Noorani is executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

Allan Lichtman teaches history at American University.

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