(Working papers available upon request)

A Theory of Presidential Centralization and Politicization (Working Paper) 


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. 

Centralization, Politicization, and the Modern Presidency (Working Paper)


While the strategies of centralization and politicization have long been known to play an essential role in how the president manages the executive branch, surprisingly little is known about how these strategies affect one another. This paper draws empirical predictions from the theory presented in the previous chapter of my dissertation, which models centralization and politicization together, in order to examine the trade-offs that the president faces when deciding how to employ these two strategies. First, I test perceptions of centralization and politicization across policy areas using the 2007 and 2014 waves of the Survey on the Future of Government Service (SFGS), an expert survey of federal government executives. Second, I examine predictions relating to centralization over time using a dataset of centralized policy creation that I have extended using archival work. Among other results, I show that greater ideological distance between the president and an agency's careerists is associated with increased centralization.

New Directions in Veto Bargaining: Message Legislation, Virtue Signaling, and Electoral Accountability
(Published in The SAGE Handbook of Research Methods in Political Science and International Relations, eds. Luigi Curini and Robert J. Franzese. London: SAGE. 224-243)
With Charles Cameron

In this essay, we focus on the mysterious. And, we offer some suggestions on how to make the murky more transparent. First, we briefly review the basic structure of the separation of powers (SOP) models, focusing on the veto bargaining and filibuster-oriented versions. Then, we note the rise of several puzzling phenomena. Among these are what we dub the missing or hidden vetoes, the anomalous filibusters, frenetic failed legislation, ostentatiously illegal executive orders, and even futile impeachment efforts. We trace all these phenomena to a single cause: the desire of political agents to send a credible signal to political principals about their dedication and fanaticism, using the procedures of the SOP system. In other words, they are all variants or consequences of what Frances Lee, in a seminal contribution, has called “messaging legislation” in the congressional context (Lee 2016). With one exception—Groseclose and McCarty’s prescient explication of “blame game vetoes” —the first-generation SOP models do not accommodate (and say nothing about) messaging-oriented manipulation of SOP policymaking procedures.  We assert, however, that if such models are suitably modified, the veto bargaining, pivotal politics, and related models can make room for such an account. To illustrate our point, we sketch a simple model which embeds a stripped-down veto bargaining game within an accountability model. We conclude with some observations about going forward, and about the current state of American politics.

Does Money Buy Congressional Love? Individual Donors and Legislative Voting (Published in Congress & The Presidency 46(1): 1-27) 

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.

Developments in Congressional Responsiveness to Donor Opinion (Published in Can America Govern Itself? eds. Frances E. Lee and Nolan M. McCarty. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 69-92)

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.

The Politicization of Congressional Capacity (Working Paper)


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.