Interest groups serve as links between the state and national political systems. Some of these linkages result from the relationship between state and local chapters, and their national organization. Others result from the federal organization of the national political system, which results in local efforts to influence the composition and actions of national government.
Many national organizations attempt to set broad political objectives, then to integrate their state- and local-level affiliates in their larger strategies. State- and local-level organizations typically attempt to reconcile specific local issues and conditions within these overarching strategies. Whether it's the American Automobile Association of Texas, Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates, or the Texas State Rifle Association, such state and local chapters are part of a two-way flow of information and resources that help structure policy debates on both the national and state levels.
Despite sharing overall objectives, a national organization and its state and local affiliates frequently need to work to reconcile their different perspectives. National leaders frequently think that state and local representatives fail to see "the big picture." Local representatives, often attempting to affect policy at the local and state level as well as in the national arena, may come to feel that the national officials don't appreciate the specifics of their locality and are too far removed from events "on the ground." Such tensions within national organizations with politically active local branches create a dynamic in which interests and actions at the local level and at the national level influence each other.
Many Texas-based interest groups also participate in national politics, supporting the national parties and candidates for federal offices such as the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the Presidency. This chapter's feature Texas interests go to Washington provides examples of federal contributions by Texas-based groups.
Interest groups in the state also try to affect policy by suing under federal law in the federal court system, linking state politics to other institutions of the national government. This often occurs in the area of civil rights and voting rights. For instance, redistricting plans for state legislative and congressional representation are routinely contested in the U.S. court system where federal redistricting requirements are invoked to shape state-level redistricting. Issues involving the use of race in school admissions, the rights of criminal defendants, and religion in public schools have also provoked suits in federal court by various groups under federal laws designed to affect state policies.