Research

Presidential Use of Centralization and Politicization 

While the presidential strategies of centralization and politicization have long been known to play an essential role in presidential policy-making, they both have received limited theoretical attention. In particular, they have almost never been examined together. This paper explores some of the trade-offs that the president faces when deciding between centralization and politicization when creating a policy. In addition to the baseline model, it examines the trade-offs that come into play when Congress is a player, when the general public is taken into account, and when centralization and politicization are modeled as interdependent strategies. Many of the predictions generally align with existing research, though several novel conclusions also come to light. For example, I find a non-monotonic relationship between politicization and ideological distance, in contrast to Lewis (2008). The paper concludes with discussion and suggestions for future research. 

Does Money Buy Congressional Love? Individual Donors and Legislative Voting

With Brandice Canes-Wrone

Despite the popular belief that campaign contributions affect policymaking, study after study has suggested that legislative voting is unaffected. We reexamine this question by focusing on the increased dominance of individual contributors. Using data on roll calls associated with the Congressional Cooperative Election Study, we test for senators’ responsiveness to their parties’ national donor class. Several findings emerge. First, responsiveness to national donor opinion is significant, even controlling for the effects of in-state constituents, affluent citizens, activists, senator ideology, and a senator’s personal donors. Moreover, the results hold in specifications that account for the endogeneity of national donor opinion to legislative votes. Second, and consistent with scholarship that argues fundraising is increasingly important for party leadership positions, the relationship depends on the ideological favorability of a state to a senator’s reelection. Also consistent with this perspective, responsiveness to donors is unrelated to a senator’s wealth, time to reelection, or seniority.

New Directions in Veto Bargaining: Message Legislation, Virtue Signaling, and Electoral Accountability

With Charles Cameron

Congress has experienced an increase in dysfunction, gridlock and polarization over the past several decades. While no doubt there are numerous causes behind these maladies, we hypothesize that the politicization of congressional capacity plays an important role. By this, we mean that the funding and staffing of congressional committees has become increasingly political, instead of being based primarily upon expertise or need. This paper explores changes in committee capacity in two ways. We first examine the broader context of committee resource allocation through several decades of House and Senate disbursement reports, exploring how political considerations may influence the allocation of budget and personnel resources within Congress. Then, we propose a novel data set that uses House and Senate telephone directories to track the employment and movement within Congress of all House and Senate staffers from 1977 to 2018. We present initial results from a subset of these data and note evidence of emerging trends.

The Politicization of Congressional Capacity

With Ben Hammond and Leah Rosenstiel

Congress has experienced an increase in dysfunction, gridlock and polarization over the past several decades. While no doubt there are numerous causes behind these maladies, we hypothesize that the politicization of congressional capacity plays an important role. By this, we mean that the funding and staffing of congressional committees has become increasingly political, instead of being based primarily upon expertise or need. This paper explores changes in committee capacity in two ways. We first examine the broader context of committee resource allocation through several decades of House and Senate disbursement reports, exploring how political considerations may influence the allocation of budget and personnel resources within Congress. Then, we propose a novel data set that uses House and Senate telephone directories to track the employment and movement within Congress of all House and Senate staffers from 1977 to 2018. We present initial results from a subset of these data and note evidence of emerging trends.

Developments in Congressional Responsiveness to Donor Opinion

With Brandice Canes-Wrone

Opinion polling suggests heightened public concern about the role of money in politics.  Yet within the academic literature, there is little evidence that campaign contributions influence congressional roll call voting.  This chapter makes use of the 1988–1992 Senate Study of the American National Election Studies and recent waves of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study to investigate the possibility of change over time in the relationship between individual donors’ preferences and senators’ votes on a set of recurring issues. The analyses reveal a significant association between donor opinion and roll call voting over the past decade but not in earlier years. Additionally, the findings suggest that the impact of donor opinion is greater as the electoral environment becomes more favorable to a senator’s reelection. The 1988–1992 electoral environments were typically competitive, however, contributing to the negligible overall effect of donor opinion in these years. This evidence of a conditional impact suggests that policy reforms could affect the relationship between contributions and policymaking.