Shallow state

Kevin Lewis

June 07, 2019

Politicization and Expertise: Exit, Effort, and Investment
Mark Richardson
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Federal civil servants need policy expertise to formulate and implement public policy. Presidents and congresses do not confer such expertise when they delegate responsibility for policy making. Existing research suggests that elected officials’ efforts to gain control of federal agencies can reduce agency expertise by inducing civil servants to exit the agency and reducing incentives for civil servants to exert effort, including acquiring policy expertise. I use data from an original survey of federal executives to examine whether politicization reduces agency expertise. I find that civil servants whose policy preferences diverge from those of political appointees are more likely to perceive that their agency is politicized and that civil servants who perceive their agency is politicized are more likely to exit the agency and less likely to engage in behaviors that build policy expertise. In total, these findings provide systematic, microlevel evidence demonstrating how politicization can reduce agency policy expertise.

Bootleggers, Baptists, and the risks of rent seeking
Patrick McLaughlin, Adam Smith & Russell Sobel
Constitutional Political Economy, June 2019, Pages 211–234

Interest groups ‘caught’ influencing public policy solely for private gain risk public backlash. These risks can be diminished, and rent seeking efforts made more successful, when moral or social arguments are employed in pushing for changes to public policy. Following Yandle’s Bootlegger and Baptist model, we postulate this risk differential should manifest itself in regulatory output with social regulations being more responsive to political influence than economic regulations. We test, and confirm, our theory using data on economic and social regulations from the new RegData project matched with data on campaign contributions and lobbying activity at the industry level.

The Influence of Corporate Lobbying on Federal Contracting
Aaron Dusso, Thomas Holyoke & Henrik Schatzinger
Social Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Methods: We approach it by analyzing the influence of direct lobbying of five federal departments, along with data on the lobbying of, and campaign contributions to, members of Congress on patterns of contract awards broken out by congressional districts.

Results: Our analysis reveals that while there are many reasons to expect lobbying Congress to produce valuable contracts, we instead find that it is the direct lobbying of executive branch agencies that is most likely to bring big rewards.

Do Politicians “Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is?” Ideology and Portfolio Choice
Adam Aiken, Jesse Ellis & Minjeong Kang
Management Science, forthcoming

We examine the role of political ideology in portfolio formation by studying a unique set of investors whose ideology can be precisely captured by a well-defined, continuous measure and whose personal asset allocation decisions are mandatorily disclosed, namely, the members of the U.S. Congress. As such, we overcome important methodological issues facing previous work in this area. We find that politicians with similar beliefs hold similar portfolios and that more liberal members engage in more socially responsible investing (SRI), even within political parties. Politicians disproportionately favor the SRI categories that reflect their favorite issues, while salience plays an important role in activating their ideologically based preferences for SRI. In addition, more ideological investors are less likely to engage in quid pro quo behavior. We conclude that ideology is a pervasive psychological factor that governs decisions across the domains of politics, investing, and, even, ethics.

Ethics by Design: The Impact of Form of Government on Municipal Corruption
Kimberly Nelson & Whitney Afonso
Public Administration Review, forthcoming

While trust in government at all levels is at an all‐time low, actual corruption at the municipal level has been declining. One factor often credited with this decline is the introduction of the council‐manager form of government. One of the key reasons the council‐manager form was created in the early 1900s was to act as an antidote to the corruption prevalent in the big‐city machine politics of the era. Despite this, no one has tested whether the council‐manager form has in fact influenced the decline in corruption rates. This article uses a rare events logit model to analyze corruption convictions in municipalities between 1990 and 2010 to determine which factors, including form of government, affect the probability that a corrupt act will occur. The findings indicate that municipalities with the council‐manager form are 57 percent less likely to have corruption convictions than municipalities with the mayor‐council form.

Crossing the District Line: Border Mismatch and Targeted Redistribution
Allison Stashko
Georgetown University Working Paper, January 2019

Electoral district borders regularly cross the borders of local governments. At the same time, elected representatives allocate money using transfers to local governments. Political parties may try to target these transfers to win district elections, but can only imperfectly do so because of border mismatch. I incorporate border mismatch into a model of political competition and bring new predictions to data on transfers from U.S. states to counties. Border mismatch increases inequality in transfers: otherwise similar counties receive different amounts of money depending on how many electoral districts they are in and the voting behavior in any neighboring counties that share those districts. Empirical evidence is consistent with the model and suggests that border mismatch has a sizable effect on the allocation of government resources. Gerrymandered maps, those drawn to increase partisan control, have more cases of border mismatch. This paper then shows a novel way in which redistricting, and gerrymandering in particular, affects voter welfare.

Constituent Communication Through Telephone Town Halls: A Field Experiment Involving Members of Congress
Claire Abernathy et al.
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Telephone town halls are an increasingly prevalent method for members of Congress (MCs) to communicate with constituents, even while garnering popular criticism for failing to facilitate engagement and accountability. Yet scholars have paid little attention to the events and their effects, and even less to how they might be improved. To remedy this problem, we report on a field experiment in which four MCs joined their constituents in telephone town halls. Overall, participation in an event improved constituents’ evaluations of the format in general, and of the MC in particular. Furthermore, we studied how these events might be improved by evaluating a reform — a single‐topic focus with predistributed briefing materials — designed to enhance deliberative interaction. This reform enhanced effects on opinions of the format without significantly altering effects on attitudes toward the MC. Our results suggest that telephone town halls hold promise for constituents, officeholders, and democratic practice.

Tracing the Boundaries of Motivated Reasoning: How Deliberative Minipublics Can Improve Voter Knowledge
Kristinn Már & John Gastil
Political Psychology, forthcoming

A large body of work shows that reasoning motivated by partisan cues and prior attitudes leads to unreflective decisions and disparities in empirical beliefs across groups. Surprisingly little research, however, has tested the limits of motivated reasoning. We argue that the publicly circulated findings of deliberative minipublics can spark a more reflective motivation in voters when these bodies provide policy‐relevant factual information. To test that proposition, we conducted a survey experiment using information generated by one such minipublic during an election. Results showed that exposure to the minipublic's findings improved the accuracy of voters' empirical beliefs regarding a ballot proposition on the regulation of genetically modified seeds. This treatment effect transcended voters' partisan identities and prior environmental attitudes. In some instances, the respondents showing the greatest knowledge gains were those who a directional motivated‐reasoning account would have expected to resist the treatment most effectively, owing to party identity or prior attitudes.

Do Negatively Framed Messages Motivate Political Participation? Evidence From Four Field Experiments
Christopher Mann, Kevin Arceneaux & David Nickerson
American Politics Research, forthcoming

A multitude of laboratory experiments show that subtle shifts in framing can induce individuals to participate in political activity. Using four randomized field experiments, we tested whether exposure to messages framing public policy proposals negatively increased political action relative to exposure to messages framing the proposal positively. Three experiments use a type of political participation novel to the field experiments literature: phone calls recruiting people to contact elected officials. Contrary to expectations from prior laboratory experiments on intention to participate in collective action in politics, we find scant evidence that messages framed negatively about the policy returns from participation are more effective than messages framed positively about the policy returns from participation at motivating real-world political behavior.

Interest Groups on the Inside: The Governance of Public Pension Funds
Sarah Anzia & Terry Moe
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming

New scholarship in American politics argues that interest groups should be brought back to the center of the field. We attempt to further that agenda by exploring an aspect of group influence that has been little studied: the role interest groups play on the inside of government as official participants in bureaucratic decision-making. The challenges for research are formidable, but a fuller understanding of group influence in American politics requires that they be taken on. Here we carry out an exploratory analysis that focuses on the bureaucratic boards that govern public pensions. These are governance structures of enormous financial consequence for state governments, public workers, and taxpayers. They also make decisions that are quantitative (and comparable) in nature, and they usually grant official policymaking authority to a key interest group: public employees and their unions. Our analysis suggests that these “interest groups on the inside” do have influence — in ways that weaken effective government. Going forward, scholars should devote greater attention to how insider roles vary across agencies and groups, how groups exercise influence in these ways, how different governance structures shape their policy effects, and what it all means for our understanding of interest groups in American politics.


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