The role and range of activities of ethnic interest groups in U.S. foreign policy has received relatively little scholarly attention, though in the wake of the Cold War analysis of their activities has increased. The case of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) during the 1980s suggests, however, that ethnic interest group activity is not new and may be far more complex than our standard conceptualizations allow. We review the literature on the role of ethnic interest groups in U.S. foreign policy and assemble some common assumptions and arguments about their origins, roles and relations with the government, and the conditions that favor their success. Then we examine origins of CANF, its web of relationships with government even during the Cold War, and its role as a near co-executor of policy. We conclude by assessing what the CANF case suggests about standard views of the roles of at least some ethnic interest groups in the process of making U.S. foreign policy, including the need to see how the state may try to use and sponsor such groups to further its policy goals.

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