Iron Triangle Project

An "Iron Triangle" consists of:

Congressional Committees (and their staffs) which create the laws

Executive Agencies and Cabinet departments responsible for regulating and enforcing government policies

Special Interest Groups which are trying to influence the politicians and agencies responsible for regulating them

It is the interraction of these three components of the Iron Triangle which leads to the creation of federal laws and policies.


Your task is to choose a specific issue from the accompanying list and answer the following questions.

I. Topic Discussion

1. What is the topic or issue?

2. Why is this issue important to the nation? to the government?

3. Explain the historical and current significance of the issue.

II. The Executive Branch - Keep in mind that the Executive Branch consists not only of the President but all of the Executive (Cabinet) Departments and Agencies. see: Executive (Cabinet) agencies, complete list and links Also see the text for a list of Executive Agencies and their responsibilities.

1. Which Department or Agency has responsibility for your issue? (if there is more than one agency concerned with your issue explain how do they divide responsibility)

2. What is the agency's annual budget?

3. How does the agency enforce the laws or regulations regarding your issue ?

4. (optional) What, if any new legislation is being proposed with regarding your issue ?


III. Congress - The legislative branch is responsible for making laws, conducting oversight of government agencies, approving spending (budget appropriations), helping their constituents and conducting investigations. Be sure to search both the House of Representatives web site and the Senate web site for information.

1.What specific actions (laws) have been passed by Congress (since the Reagan administration) regarding your topic ?

2. Which committees in Congress have jurisdiction over, or interest in, this topic ?

3. Who chairs the committee(s) ?

IV. Interest Groups - Interest groups fund political campaigns, lobby for legislation, help committees write legislation, help agencies write rules and regulations and have a significant influence on what is done within the three "official" branches of the government.

1. What specific interest groups are involved with your issue (on either side) ?

2. What are their goals ?

3. How are they financed?

4. What types of lobbying techniques do they employ ?

V. Media Coverage -

1. Find a specific article relating to your topic

2. Identify any bias in the coverage ?

VI. The Courts -

1. What specific court rulings (cases) pertain to your issue ?

2. Are there any current cases (or lawsuits) pending before the courts ?


Issues and Topics

the war on "terror" (international or domestic) - ex. protection of American lives versus individual freedom, racial "terrorist" profiling

dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

how the Catholic Church deals with priests who commit sexual offenses

compensation to African-Americans for slavery

affirmative action (ex. college admission)

racial profiling by the police

immigration issues (ethnic profiling, who can get in, who can't, favoritism to Cubans, border control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, etc.)

abortion (pro-choice, pro-life, anti-abortionists publishing the names and addresses of doctors who perform abortions on the internet to encourage or incite others to kill them , etc.)

gun control

protecting internet privacy (selling personal information, etc.)

dealing with internet crimes (hacking, creating viruses, etc.)

software piracy

tax cuts

education standards testing and funding (ex. vouchers, scholarships)

health care issues (people who have no health insurance, the elderly, the high cost of drugs, etc.)

Gulf War Syndrome

the trade embargo of Cuba

relations with China and Taiwan

diplomatic relations with North Korea

economic sanctions against Iraq

racism and hate crimes

sexual harrassment

discrimination against people with disabilities

child labor/sweat shops

genetic engineering (food, humans, animals)

cloning (animals, humans)

stem cell research

military/defence spending


peacekeeping operations by US forces (ex. Afghanistan)

violence in video/movies/records/entertainment as a causative factor

youth violence and juvenile crime

the war on drugs, drug related crime, needle exchange programs, etc.

legalization of marijuana (or permitting the medical use of)

welfare, welfare reform, welfare fraud

campaign finance reform

lowering the drinking age to 18

organized crime

preserving the environment

funding Social Security

energy policy (developing new sources, dealing with California's energy crisis)

nuclear arms reduction

foreign aid (military and economic, who receives it and why? Is it effective?)

federal funding for the arts

federal funding for faith-based (religious) charitable organizations

animal rights and welfare (furs, products made from endangered species, etc.)

capital punishment (pro and con)

homelessness and poverty (how best to deal with)

dealing with sexually transmitted diseases (AIDS research, sex education in schools, etc.)

............ or any appropriate topic of your choosing .............