Findings

Committed to an institution

Kevin Lewis

September 05, 2019

Moderation or Strategy? Political Giving by Corporations and Trade Groups
Sebastian Thieme
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Do bipartisan contributions by corporations and trade associations reflect strategic considerations or ideological moderation? In this paper, I leverage lobbying disclosures in Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin to provide a new measure of ideology that allows me to adjudicate between the two accounts. These states' legislatures permit or require lobbyists to declare their principals' positions on lobbied bills. I combine these data with roll call votes to estimate the ideal points of legislators and private interests in the same ideological space. I find that the revealed preferences of most corporations and trade groups are more conservative than what would be implied by their contribution behavior. This shows that a moderate contribution record need not imply moderation in policy preferences. Thus, such interests may not reduce polarization overall. Further, the divergence between contribution and position-taking behavior indicates that many business interests employ sophisticated strategies to influence public officials whom they disagree with.


Executive Absolutism: A Model
William Howell, Kenneth Shepsle & Stephane Wolton
University of Chicago Working Paper, August 2019

Abstract:
Separated powers cannot permanently constrain individual ambitions. Concerns about a government's ability to respond to contemporary and future crises, we show, invariably compromise the principled commitments one branch of government has in limiting the authority of another. We study a dynamic model in which a politician (most commonly an executive) makes authority claims that are subject to a hard constraint (administered, typically, by a court). At any period, the court is free to rule against the executive and thereby permanently halt her efforts to acquire more power. Because it appropriately cares about the executive's ability to address real-world disruptions, however, the court is always willing to affirm more authority. Neither robust electoral competition nor alternative characterizations of judicial rule fundamentally alters this state of affairs. The result, we show, is a persistent accumulation of executive authority.


Persistent Bias Among Local Election Officials
Alex Hughes et al.
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming

Abstract:
Results of an audit study conducted during the 2016 election cycle demonstrate that bias toward Latinos observed during the 2012 election has persisted. In addition to replicating previous results, we show that Arab/Muslim Americans face an even greater barrier to communicating with local election officials, but we find no evidence of bias toward blacks. An innovation of our design allows us to measure whether e-mails were opened by recipients, which we argue provides a direct test of implicit discrimination. We find evidence of implicit bias toward Arab/Muslim senders only.


Outside Advisers Inside Agencies
Brian Feinstein & Daniel Jacob Hemel
Georgetown Law Journal, forthcoming

Abstract:
Advisory committees are a ubiquitous yet understudied feature of the administrative state. More than seventy-five thousand experts from outside the federal government serve on over one thousand committees across the executive branch, providing agencies with informed “second opinions” to complement their in-house experts in the civil service. By law, these committees must be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented.” The administrative law literature fails to reveal, however, whether advisory committees live up to this standard and how these panels influence agency decisionmaking. This Article sheds light on the composition and operation of advisory committees, applying a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. We begin by gathering data on the campaign contribution histories of more than one thousand randomly selected advisory committee members over twenty-one years and across four administrations. We find - notwithstanding the statutory fair-balance requirement - that these committees lean left during Democratic administrations and right during Republican ones. We then examine the formation, utilization, and funding of advisory committees over the same timeframe. Combining this data with information on the political preferences of career civil servants, we find that agencies create, convene, and finance committees at higher rates when the preferences of civil servants and the presidential administration diverge. In other words, Democratic administrations appear to rely more on advisory committees at agencies with relatively conservative career staffs (e.g., the Pentagon), while Republicans rely more on these outside panels at agencies with liberal-leaning careerists (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency). We supplement our quantitative analysis with case studies of four advisory committees across four different agencies and presidential administrations. Our case studies show how the political appointees at the helms of agencies use advisory committees as substitute sources of information and expertise when career civil servants at their agencies resist the administration’s agenda. Taken together, these results point to a new view of advisory committees as important instruments of presidential administration. In contrast to the so-called “deep state” of career civil servants who persist at agencies across presidencies, we suggest that advisory committees constitute a “shallow state” whose composition ebbs and flows with the political tides. This “shallow state” presents both a contrast with and a counterweight to the “deep state” of agency careerists. At the same time, advisory committees serve a legitimating function for the administrative state, increasing agency responsiveness to electoral politics. We conclude by considering the implications of this account for judicial review of agency action and for long-running separation-of-powers debates.


Expertise, Networks, and Interpersonal Influence in Congress
Christian Fong
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
Legislators often must vote on complex issues that they do not fully understand. I show that legislators cope with incomplete information by taking cues from trusted peers who possess expertise that they themselves lack. With a matched differences-in-differences design that exploits mid-session committee assignments as expertise-increasing events, I estimate that this behavior accounts for a substantial proportion of all congressional voting decisions. These cues cross party lines and remain relevant in the face of mounting partisan polarization. My findings highlight the salience of expertise to legislators and the role that ties between legislators play in allowing Congress to reach informed collective decisions.


The Effects of Blaming Others for Legislative Inaction on Individual and Collective Evaluations
David Doherty & Laurel Harbridge‐Yong
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Legislators commonly blame others for gridlock. We posit that legislators may engage in this type of rhetoric to minimize the individual reputational risks associated with legislative inaction or to boost the relative standing of their party. In a series of six survey experiments, we find that blaming others for inaction undermines voters’ evaluations of individual legislators who engage in this rhetorical strategy. This effect is particularly pronounced among out‐partisans and independents. However, blaming rhetoric can also enhance the standing of the blamer’s party relative to the opposing party across all groups (including out‐partisans), in large part by undermining the reputations of these other actors. Ultimately, we show that when an individual legislator engages in blaming rhetoric, the immediate net electoral effects are null. This suggests that coordinated efforts by a party to blame opponents may improve the party’s relative standing, while imposing few costs on those engaged in blaming.


Finally, Nebraska: A Synthetic Control Analysis of Legislative Structure
William Hankins
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
I estimate the impact of Nebraska’s 1937 switch from a bicameral to a unicameral legislature on state-level government expenditures. Using the synthetic control method I create a counterfactual Nebraska from a weighted average of other potential control states and compare spending in this “synthetic Nebraska” to spending in the real Nebraska. Relative to the synthetic control, Nebraska experiences a sharp decrease in expenditures per capita immediately following the switch to a unicameral legislature; however, the difference appears to diminish over time. Placebo tests show that if the change in Nebraska’s legislative structure were randomly assigned among the sample of states, and legislative structure had no real impact on spending, the likelihood of obtaining a treatment-effect estimate as large as Nebraska’s would be 0.0213. While the initial drop in expenditures per capita lends support to the theory that bicameralism, by requiring more veto players, is associated with higher levels of government spending, the fact that the difference between Nebraska and synthetic Nebraska diminishes suggests that legislators are able to circumvent this constraint.


Pitch Perfect: Vocal Pitch and the Emotional Intensity of Congressional Speech
Bryce Dietrich, Matthew Hayes & Diana O’Brien
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although audio archives are available for a number of political institutions, the data they provide receive scant attention from researchers. Yet, audio data offer important insights, including information about speakers’ emotional states. Using one of the largest collections of natural audio ever compiled - 74,158 Congressional floor speeches - we introduce a novel measure of legislators’ emotional intensity: small changes in vocal pitch that are difficult for speakers to control. Applying our measure to MCs’ floor speeches about women, we show that female MCs speak with greater emotional intensity when talking about women as compared with both their male colleagues and their speech on other topics. Our two supplementary analyses suggest that increased vocal pitch is consistent with legislators’ broader issue commitments, and that emotionally intense speech may affect other lawmakers’ behavior. More generally, by demonstrating the utility of audio-as-data approaches, our work highlights a new way of studying political speech.


Prioritized Interests: Diverse Lobbying Coalitions and Congressional Committee Agenda-Setting
Geoffrey Lorenz
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Abstract:
For most congressional legislation, committee consideration is the first and most drastic winnowing point. Organized interest groups try to influence this winnowing. Many have suggested such influence arises from organizational resources. I offer an alternative view, based on the need of policy-motivated committee agenda-setters to assess the viability of bills prior to granting them consideration. Such needs incentivize agenda-setters to favor legislation supported by organizations representing diverse industries, causes, and other interests. Analyzing new data on organizations’ positions on over 4700 bills introduced between 2005 and 2014, I show that committee consideration favors such "interest diverse" coalitions, and not coalitions that are large but homogeneous, or that give high levels of campaign contributions. These associations are stronger when viability information is more valuable; for majority party bills and bills introduced during divided government. This suggests that lobbying helps agenda-setters identify, and promote, legislation likely to garner widespread and diverse support.


From the Halls of Congress to K Street: Government Experience and its Value for Lobbying
Pamela Ban, Maxwell Palmer & Benjamin Schneer
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Abstract:
Lobbying presents an attractive postcongressional career, with some former congressional members and staffers transitioning to lucrative lobbying careers. Precisely why congressional experience is valued is a matter of ongoing debate. Building on research positing a relationship between political uncertainty and demand for lobbyists, we examine conditions under which lobbyists with past congressional experience prove most valuable. To assess lobbyist earnings, we develop a new measure, Lobbyist Value Added, that reflects the marginal contribution of each lobbyist on a contract, and show that previous measures understate the value of high‐performing lobbyists. We find that former staffers earn revenues above their peers during times of uncertainty, and former members of Congress generate higher revenue overall, which we identify by comparing revenues generated by individuals who narrowly won election to those who narrowly lost. These findings help characterize when lobbyists with different skillsets prove most valuable and the value added by government experience.


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