The two primary ways that pressure groups such as corporations and lobbyists influence the government are through money and votes. Both are extremely important to elected officials, who are challenged to find a balance between the promises they make to citizens when they are elected, the gifts they accept in getting elected and the promises they make to special interest groups.
In the United States, running for political office is very expensive. According to CNN, during the 2012 elections, it cost $1.6 million to win a seat in the House of Representatives and $10.4 million to win a seat in the Senate. Although many members of Congress are affluent, few have the necessary resources to fund a multimillion dollar campaign. Corporations and lobbyist groups are aware of this, so they court candidates and give monetary gifts to their campaigns in exchange for support from candidates in their special interests. Corporations and lobbyists also have the power to influence the voters by creating campaigns either for or against candidates and generating support from members.
The frequency of this practice in the United States in recent years has become very controversial. Critics believe that it grants too much influence to corporations and special interest groups. However, those who support the system claim that it provides a voice to those who cannot otherwise financially afford to influence government decisions through the demonstration of their support for special interest groups.