Kevin Lewis

April 14, 2017

Mobilizing the Public Against the President: Congress and the Political Costs of Unilateral Action
Dino Christenson & Douglas Kriner
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Prior scholarship overlooks the capacity of other actors to raise the political costs of unilateral action by turning public opinion against the president. Through a series of five experiments embedded in nationally representative surveys, we demonstrate Congress's ability to erode support for unilateral actions by raising both constitutional and policy-based objections to the exercise of unilateral power. Congressional challenges to the unilateral president diminish support for executive action across a range of policy areas in both the foreign and domestic realm and are particularly influential when they explicitly argue that presidents are treading on congressional prerogatives. We also find evidence that constitutional challenges are more effective when levied by members of Congress than by other actors. The results resolve a debate in the literature and suggest a mechanism through which Congress might exercise a constraint on the president, even when it is unable to check him legislatively.

Partisan Infighting Among House Republicans: Leaders, Factions, and Networks of Interests
William Bendix & Jon Mackay
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Congressional parties are commonly viewed as unified legislative teams, but recent intraparty battles have revealed serious ideological divisions within the House Republican caucus. Using annual ratings from nearly 300 interest groups, we estimate the ideological locations of Republican legislators in order to map their party's factional structure. Based on the distribution of interest-group support from 2001 to 2012, we detect three Republican factions that we characterize as worker oriented, pro-business, and ethno-radical. We find that Republican leaders block bills by legislators in the worker and ethno-radical subgroups and that they advance bills by members in the corporate faction.

How Transparency Kills Information Aggregation: Theory and Experiment
Sebastian Fehrler & Niall Hughes
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, forthcoming


We investigate the potential of transparency to influence committee decision-making. We present a model in which career concerned committee members receive private information of different type-dependent accuracy, deliberate and vote. We study three levels of transparency under which career concerns are predicted to affect behavior differently and test the model's key predictions in a laboratory experiment. The model's predictions are largely borne out -- transparency negatively affects information aggregation at the deliberation and voting stages, leading to sharply different committee error rates than under secrecy. This occurs despite subjects revealing more information under transparency than theory predicts.

The Nonlinear Effect of Information on Political Attention: Media Storms and U.S. Congressional Hearings
Stefaan Walgrave et al.
Political Communication, forthcoming


Agenda-setting scholars have claimed that the typical punctuated pattern of governmental attention is a consequence of disproportionate information processing. Yet these claims remain unsubstantiated. We tackle this challenge by considering mass media coverage as a source of information for political actors and by examining the relationship between preceding media information and subsequent governmental attention. Employing data capturing U.S. media attention and congressional hearings (1996-2006), we find that the effects of media attention on congressional attention are conditioned by the presence of "media storms" - sudden and large surges in media attention to a given topic. A one-story increase in media attention has a greater effect on congressional attention in the context of a media storm, since media storms surpass a key threshold for catching policymakers' attention. We find evidence that the influence of media attention on political attention is nonlinear; agenda-setting operates differently when the media are in storm mode.

Political Uncertainty and Investment: Causal Evidence from U.S. Gubernatorial Elections
Candace Jens
Journal of Financial Economics, forthcoming


I examine the link between political uncertainty and firm investment using U.S. gubernatorial elections as a source of plausibly exogenous variation in uncertainty. Investment declines 5% before all elections and up to 15% for subsamples of firms particularly susceptible to political uncertainty. I use term limits as an instrumental variable (IV) for election closeness. Because close elections are related to economic downturns, I find that the effect of close elections on investment is understated by more than half by ordinary least squares (OLS). Post-election rebounds in investment depend on whether an incumbent is re-elected. Finally, I provide evidence that firms delay equity and debt issuances tied to investments before elections.

Lame ducks and divided government: How voters control the unaccountable
Mark Schelker
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


Electoral institutions interact through the incentives they provide to policy makers and voters. In this paper divided government is interpreted as the reaction of voters to a systematic control problem. Voters realize that term-limited executives ("lame ducks") cannot credibly commit to a moderate electoral platform due to missing reelection incentives. By dividing government control voters force a lame duck to compromise on policies with an opposing legislature. Based on data from the US states, I present evidence showing that the probability of divided government is about 8 to 10 percent higher when governors are lame ducks.

The Impact of Senior Political Representation on Government Contracting, Firm-Level Investments and Stock Returns
Mehmet İhsan Canayaz
University of Oxford Working Paper, January 2017


The committee seniority system in U.S. House of Representatives shifts government contracts towards districts of senior politicians. These shifts have profound spillover effects on private-sector investments. I find that 1% increase in government contracts to firms from a given district increases investments of uncontracted firms from the same district by 2.85%. Government contracts also drive higher future profits and positive earnings surprises. An investment strategy that exploits these ramifications generates abnormal stock market returns as large as 5.13% per year. Overall, my findings suggest that government procurement under the aegis of senior politicians stimulates local corporate activity and influences stock market returns.

Rethinking Representation from a Communal Perspective
Mia Costa, Kaylee Johnson & Brian Schaffner
Political Behavior, forthcoming


Most foundational theories of congressional representation were developed during an era of less polarized and less partisan politics. These theories viewed the incumbency advantage as buttressed by the fact that some constituents were willing to support legislators from the opposite party because of their "home styles." But in an era of policy immoderation in Congress, this perspective leads to an assumption that citizens evaluate their members of Congress based on what those legislators do for them individually, rather than what they do for their districts more broadly. In this paper, we ask whether citizens take the interests of their fellow constituents into account when evaluating their members of Congress. Using both survey data and an experiment, we uncover support for the notion that citizens take a more communal view of representation as at least part of their evaluations of their representatives. This suggests individuals may have a more nuanced understanding of representation than purely self-interested approaches tend to assume.

The Impact of Local Politics on the Principal-Agent Relationship Between Council and Manager in Municipal Government
Jennifer Connolly
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, April 2017, Pages 253-268


A majority of US municipalities now operate under the council-manager form of government, an institutional design that creates a principal-agent problem as the elected council and appointed manager have divergent incentives. Although current scholarship on the council-manager relationship focuses on ex post municipal level outcomes, this study advances the literature by developing a theory of ex ante contracting between principal and agent at the local level. The theory predicts that increasingly constraining political environments are associated with a greater degree of contractually provided employment protection for incoming city managers. Using unique data on California municipalities and their managers, empirical analysis supports the theory's predictions. Specifically, as the municipal electorate becomes more cohesive and less moderate and as municipal elections become increasingly competitive, city manager contracts include increasing protection from termination in the form of severance and political protection from termination. The empirical results suggest that employment protection serves an important role in the initial creation of a principal-agent relationship between manager and council by defining the cost council must bear if they terminate the manager and protecting the manager from career risk.

Is Local Public Sector Rent Extraction Higher in Progressive Cities or High Amenity Cities
Matthew Kahn
NBER Working Paper, February 2017


Public finance theories of the median voter's preferences and local public sector rent extraction posit that liberal cities and high amenity cities will feature a larger, better paid local public sector. Compensating differentials theory predicts that real wages will be lower in beautiful states and localities. Using both Federal and California city level administrative micro data, I study public sector compensation across space. At the Federal level, California workers are only paid 9% more than observationally identical workers in Alabama. Given the high California home prices, such workers are paying for the California amenities. Within California, beach cities hire more workers but pay them less in real terms. Liberal cities both pay public sector workers more and employ more of them. Liberal cities have much larger per-capita pension liabilities.

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