Kevin Lewis

June 18, 2021

Imperial Governance and the Growth of Legislative Power in America
Sean Gailmard
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


The power of assemblies in the British new world grew far beyond the bounds intended at their creation. Although the British crown instructed royal governors to use legal powers to restrain assemblies, they were unsuccessful. I develop a formal model to account for this. In this model colonial assemblies can challenge the agenda setting powers of colonial governors. “Strong” governors withstand these challenges easily; “weak” ones prefer to capitulate. The crown wishes to retain only strong governors; however, it observes only policy outcomes but not the resolution of challenges to the governor's agenda power. In equilibrium, the crown cannot distinguish between a strong governor holding agenda power against a tough assembly, and a weak governor conceding agenda power to a moderate one. Weak governors therefore avoid conflict with the assembly, yet conceal their weakness from the crown. But the assembly observes the governor's concessions, and challenges weak governors even more in the future. This creates a dynamic path of growing assembly power. The model provides a strategic logic of endogenous institutional change, and one of the most important institutional developments in American history: the growth of legislative power.

Politics and the Distribution of Federal Funds: Evidence from Federal Legislation in Response to COVID-19
Jeffrey Clemens & Stan Veuger
NBER Working Paper, May 2021


COVID-19 relief legislation offers a unique setting to study how political representation shapes the distribution of federal assistance to state and local governments. We provide evidence of a substantial small-state bias: an additional Senator or Representative per million residents predicts an additional $670 dollars in aid per capita across the four relief packages. Alignment with the Democratic party predicts increases in states’ allocations through legislation designed after the January 2021 political transition. This benefit of partisan alignment operates through the American Rescue Plan Act’s sheer size, as well as the formulas through which it distributed transportation and general relief funds.

Returns to Seeking Political Influence: Early Evidence from the COVID-19 Stimulus
John Barrick, Adam Olson & Shivaram Rajgopal
BYU Working Paper, April 2021


Measuring various ways of seeking political influence and potential monetary return from such an endeavor is difficult. To address that challenge, we collect data on four mechanisms of acquiring political influence: lobbying spending, PAC contributions, lobbying through trade associations, and an invitation to testify in Congress for 10 years spanning 2010-2020. We investigate associations between these four mechanisms and benefits from the largest stimulus package passed by Congress to address COVID-19. The odds of receiving governmental assistance for publicly listed firms that seek political influence are 94.2% for those who lobby directly, 170.7% higher for those who give PAC contributions, and 77.3% higher for those that lobby through a trade association. Beneficiary organizations of all stripes received from $3.26 (for lobbying) to $51.28 (for PAC contributions) of additional COVID-19 stimulus for each dollar they spent on political influence. Government organizations, which are usually not studied in the literature, earned larger returns to their political influence spending relative to public companies. Generally, a dollar spent on political influence by 2,758 unique firms on COMPUSTAT is associated with $20.67 of higher annual earnings in the future. This return is orders of magnitude larger than the payoff to R&D or advertising. Our work highlights how lucrative political influence can be for firm value.

Campaigning for Retirement: State Teacher Union Campaign Contributions and Pension Generosity
Gary Wagner & Erick Elder
European Journal of Political Economy, June 2021


Since Tullock (1972) first asked why there is so little money in U.S. politics, several studies have found evidence that political activism has the potential to yield significant returns. This study is the first to directly investigate the returns to public sector union activism by leveraging a transactions-level dataset from the National Institute on Money in Politics to estimate the relationship between teachers' union campaign contributions and the generosity of teacher pension systems. Our results show that more politically engaged teachers’ unions, as evidenced by their aggregate campaign contributions, are successful at both securing a higher level of retirement benefits and at shifting a greater burden of the financing of those benefits to the sponsoring government. Our estimates are in line with recent related studies and imply an investment return on campaign contributions of nearly 1500%.

Gift Travel in the U.S. House of Representatives
Zachary McGee & Philip Moniz
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


Members of Congress take more than 2,000 trips sponsored by private organizations and interest groups every congress. Using a new data set of gift travel from 2007 to 2019 and interviews with former members of Congress, current and former congressional staffers, and staffers from interest groups that fund trips, we attempt to answer two core questions about this increasingly frequent behavior. Why do members take privately sponsored trips and what types of groups are driving this behavior? We argue that members of Congress take trips because they believe it makes them more effective legislators by exposing them to real-world consequences of their policy decisions and forcing them to build relationships with their fellow members. Trip sponsors, alternatively, seek to persuade and build relationships with members of Congress that ultimately shape their legislative coalitions. We find that trip-taking is associated with greater legislative effectiveness, in particular for Democrats, and that the provision of policy-specific information is a valuable benefit from taking these trips.

From Classical to Progressive Liberalism: Ideological Development and the Origins of the Administrative State
David Foster & Joseph Warren
University of California Working Paper, June 2021


Early support for expert policymaking through administrative agencies was rooted in concerns over political power. In a context of formal universal male suffrage, late 19th-century liberals (typically well-educated, urban professionals) opposed policies to regulate business out of fear of working-class radicalism. Yet by the 1910s, liberals supported redistributive policies -- through administrative agencies. We use a formal model to show how potential policy feedback effects made an anti-business coalition between liberals and populists unachievable, and how, by diminishing feedback effects, agencies facilitated a successful progressive-liberal coalition. Because administrative agencies guaranteed a central policymaking role for credentialed urban professionals, liberals could support farmers and industrial workers against big business while no longer fearing the rising power of their coalition partners. In this way, the strategic dilemma created by a changing distribution of power among social groups explains the development of broad political support for bureaucratic agencies.

How Non-Majoritarian Institutions Make Silent Majorities Vocal: A Political Explanation of Authoritarian Populism
Michael Zürn
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming


Why did we witness such a strong growth of anti-liberal forces twenty-five years after the triumph of liberalism? The answer is twofold. First, authoritarian populism has not sneaked into a given political space but is co-constitutive of a new cleavage in most modern societies. Authoritarian populists speak to the issues of this cleavage. Second, the rise of this new cleavage and authoritarian populists cannot be reduced to one of the two well-known explanations, namely the economic insecurity perspective and cultural backlash perspective. This current paper develops a political explanation that integrates struggles over policies with a focus on endogenous dynamics of political institutions in and beyond democracies. In this account, it is the historical compromise between labor and capital that has triggered a dynamic in which the rise of so-called non-majoritarian institutions (NMIs) -- such as central banks, constitutional courts, and international organizations (IOs) -- have locked in liberal policies in most consolidated democracies. This explanation brings together the party cartelization thesis with the observation that NMIs are a major target of contemporary populism. The explanatory model is probed by translating it into descriptive propositions and by showing step by step how the sequence unfolded in electoral democracies.

Political costs and corporate tax avoidance: Evidence from sin firms
Cong Wang et al.
Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, forthcoming


The products and services of firms operating in sin industries (alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and firearms) run contrary to social norms and can produce significant negative externalities for society. As such, we expect that sin firms are at greater risk of incurring political costs in the form of additional regulation, higher excise taxes, or capital market intervention if they come under scrutiny for their income tax avoidance practices. Because of the nature of their products, regulators and policymakers are likely to face less pushback on new regulations or taxes on these firms. Sin firms start with a lower ability to influence the political process than firms in non-sin industries. Consequently, we hypothesize and find that sin firms exhibit less tax avoidance than non-sin firms, particularly through uncertain and more risky tax avoidance strategies. The negative relationship between the status of sin firms and tax avoidance is less pronounced in firms that accumulate political capital via intensive lobbying activities. Exploiting changes in partisan control of the Congress and White House, difference-in-differences tests show that firearm firms engage in less (more) tax avoidance when the Democrats (Republican) control both the Congress and White House. Overall, we conclude that political costs play an important role in corporate tax avoidance decisions.

Off-Cycle and Off Center: Election Timing and Representation in Municipal Government
Adam Dynes, Michael Hartney & Sam Hayes
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


Who governs America’s cities: organized interests or mass publics? Though recent scholarship finds that local governments enact policies that align with citizens’ preferences, others argue that it is organized interests, not mass publics that are influential. To reconcile these perspectives, we show that election timing can help shed light on when voters or groups will be pivotal in city politics. Examining 1,600 large US cities, we find that off-cycle elections affect city policy responsiveness asymmetrically, weakening responsiveness on those issues where there is an active and organized interest whose policy objectives deviate from the preferences of the median resident. Here, we focus on public employees’ interests and find that local governments that are elected off cycle spend more on city workers than would be preferred by citizens in more conservative cities. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for the study of interest groups and representation in local politics.

Gridlock, Bureaucratic Control, and Nonstatutory Policymaking in Congress
Alexander Bolton
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Increasing ideological polarization and dysfunction in Congress raise questions about whether and how Congress remains capable of constraining the activities of other actors in the separation of powers system. In this article, I argue Congress uses nonstatutory policymaking tools to overcome the burdens of legislative gridlock in an increasingly polarized time to constrain executive branch actors. I leverage a new data set of committee reports issued by the House and Senate appropriations committees from fiscal years 1923 through 2019 to empirically explore these dynamics and evaluate my argument. Traditionally, these reports are a primary vehicle through which Congress directs agency policymaking in the appropriations process. Committees increasingly turn to them when passing legislation is most difficult and interbranch agency problems are most pronounced. In this way, nonstatutory mechanisms may help maintain the balance of power across branches, even when Congress faces gridlock-induced incapacity.

Let’s Work Together: Bill Success via Women’s Cosponsorship in U.S. State Legislatures
Mirya Holman, Anna Mahoney & Emma Hurler
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


Not all pieces of legislation introduced for consideration are equally likely to be successful. The characteristics of legislation’s cosponsors can influence bill passage rates. Despite facing marginalization in legislative bodies and more electoral vulnerability, women are effective lawmakers. We argue that one way by which women overcome marginalization and gendered expectations of performance is bill success from legislation cosponsored with other women. Testing this expectation on bills (140,000+) introduced in U.S. state legislatures in forty states in 2015, we find increased bill success from women’s cosponsorship with each other and women from the other party. Using variation in the share of women in legislative chambers and in legislative leadership, we find evidence to suggest that women’s success emerges both from marginalization and gendered opportunities.

A house divided: Legislative competition and young firm survival in the United States
Manav Raj
Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming


Features of the institutional environment influence the performance of firms. In this research, I examine how one aspect of the institutional environment, competition between parties within legislatures, relates to young firm mortality. I argue that higher legislative competition provides legislators with more power to reward favored interests and thus contributes to a competitive environment that benefits well‐connected incumbents and imposes negative consequences on young firms. Using data on state legislature composition in the United States and both an ordinary least squares and instrumental variables empirical strategy, I find that legislative competition has a positive relationship with young firm mortality and this relationship is partially mediated by incentives that favor incumbents. In doing so, I highlight that political competition can have negative consequences for some firms.

Going it Alone: The Adverse Effect of Executive Term Limits on Bargaining
Alexandra Cockerham
State and Local Government Review, forthcoming


It is widely accepted that executive term limits provide a check on executive power. I challenge this assumption by arguing that executive term limits pose an obstacle to inter-branch bargaining because they both limit tenure potential and force an executive from office precisely when she is most prone to bargain. While previous research has assumed that an executive’s tenure potential remains constant throughout his time in office, I argue that the tenure potential of a term-limited executive varies with time left in office. The perfect correlation between time served (experience) and maximum remaining time in office (tenure potential) among U.S. presidents precludes empirical analysis about the effects of tenure potential and experience. Accordingly, I turn to the American states for analysis, and find strong empirical support for my theory.

Does the Meeting Style Matter? The Effects of Exposure to Participatory and Deliberative School Board Meetings
Jonathan Collins
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


Would public meetings incite more civic engagement if they were structured in ways that are simply more engaging? I addressed this question by conducting an original survey with an oversample of racial and ethnic minorities and individuals from low-income households. The survey featured a randomized experiment in which each study participant was shown a short clip of an actual school board meeting that was (1) a standard meeting with no public participation, (2) a meeting with public participation, or (3) a meeting with deliberation (public participation followed by a reasoned response from the school board). The experience of viewing the more participatory and deliberative school board meetings led to increased trust in local officials and a stronger willingness to attend school board meetings in the future. This study has significant implications for civic engagement, local politics, and public school governance.

Business Owners and Executives as Politicians: The Effect on Public Policy
Patricia Kirkland
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


When business owners and executives run for elected office, they claim their experience in business leaves them uniquely equipped to govern. Does electing a business owner or executive have an effect on public policy? With original data, including race, gender, political experience, and occupational backgrounds of 3,257 mayoral candidates from 263 cities, I document a striking lack of diversity in U.S. mayoral politics and show that business owners and executives are extraordinarily well represented in American city halls. Nearly 32% of mayors have experience as a business owner or executive, making it the most common occupation across both time and geographic region. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find that business executive mayors do shape municipal fiscal policy by shifting the allocation of expenditures, investing in infrastructure while curtailing redistributive spending. Notably, my results suggest that business executive is not simply a proxy for Republican partisanship.

Does Lobbying Affect Bill Advancement? Evidence from Three State Legislatures
Daniel Butler & David Miller
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


Many studies consider the effect of lobbying on the behavior of individual legislators, but few studies demonstrate a relationship between lobbying and the ultimate dispositions of bills by the legislature. One challenge to establishing this latter relationship is data scarcity, as few legislatures systematically collect and publish information on organized interests’ lobbying activities on each bill. We provide new insights on lobbying by using data from Colorado, Nebraska, and Wisconsin that records the positions organized interests take on proposals in those states’ legislatures. We find that organized interests’ lobbying predicts outcomes, especially when lobbying is directed against a proposal. We also use our data to test whether lobbying succeeds by building support among legislators (i.e., vote buying) or by affecting a proposal’s advancement through the legislative process (i.e., agenda control). We find that lobbying does not buy the votes of legislators on the committees of jurisdiction for each bill, but lobbying does strongly predict what bills make it onto the agenda. Our findings contribute to ongoing discussions about money and politics, bias in representation, and legislator behavior.


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