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AP Gov Review:

Iron Triangles

Everything You Need To Know About Iron Triangles To Succeed In AP Gov

The “Iron-Triangle”

What is it?

The relationship between Congress (especially sub-committees), Government Agencies (Bureaucracy), and Interest Groups

They help create policy

All three parts of the “Iron-Triangle” seek to protect their own self interests

An Example Of The “Iron-Triangle”

• Farm Special Interest Groups (SIGs) help elect members of Congress

• Campaign contributions, endorsements, etc.

• In return, Congress creates favorable legislation and oversight to special interests

• Congress funds agencies (Bureaucracy) to regulate subsidies and oversee distribution

• The Bureaucracy is favorable to the Farm Special Interest Groups, which in turn lobby on behalf of the agency to ensure financial and political support

Additional explanation

Interest group- An interest group has a problem or issue that they would like to see resolved with the creation of a law …. So they raise funds and gather information to submit to a congressional committee, or they try and elect a member of Congress supportive of their needs

Congress then gives funding and oversight power to a bureaucratic agency who then provide favorable regulation to the interest group that inspired the law in the first place

Example 2

Interest group- AARP members want free wheelchairs

It’s an election year, and AARP members re-elect an older member of Congress that also happens to be a member of the AARP

Congress then grants additional funding to the Social Security Administration to begin a program that gives away free wheelchairs

Example 3

Interest group- Green peace wants to establish an additional wildlife and nature preserve in California

California Congressional members agree- pass law

Bureacratic agency: National Park Service staffs the new preserve, maintain oversight of the project

Positives And Negatives Of The “Iron-Triangle”


Many Special Interest Groups receive benefits from the government

Congressional districts can get increased funding (“Pork-barrel”)


Hyperpluralists argue appeasing too many groups leads to gridlock


Test Tips

Identify ALL aspects of the “Iron-Triangle”

Positives and Negatives

Free Response Questions:

Ways Special Interest Groups influence policy:

Campaign Contributions

I’m going to assign you a number

You will have 3 minutes to list as many as you can find

1- Interest groups

2- Bureacratic agency

3- Congressional Committee