Liberal Democracy

Kevin Lewis

January 19, 2024

Lawyers as Lobbyists: Regulatory Advocacy in American Finance
Brian Libgober & Daniel Carpenter
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming 


Administrative agencies have undertaken an increasingly substantial role in policymaking. Yet the influence-seeking that targets these agencies remains poorly understood. Reporting exceptions under the Lobbying Disclosure Act allow many of the most powerful advocates to characterize their activity as lawyering, not lobbying, and thereby fly under the radar. Using agency-generated records on lobbying activity, financial reporting, and personnel databases specific to lawyers, as well as LinkedIn, we describe a vast subterranean world of regulatory influence-seeking that the social-science literature has (mostly) ignored. Regulatory lobbying is systematically different from legislative lobbying. It involves different kinds of people and different lobbying firms that bring specific forms of expertise and distinct networks. Our key findings about how regulatory lobbying differs include the following: (1) the regulatory lobbying sector is highly segregated from the reported lobbying sector, with many regulatory advocates failing to consistently register or report earnings commensurate with their activity level, (2) the number of unregistered regulatory advocates working on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act plausibly exceeds 150% of the registered lobbyists working on that law, (3) the most effective regulatory lobbyists and law firms involved with regulatory lobbying have incomes that dramatically outpace leading reported lobbying firms (which are also mostly law firms), and (4) back-of-the-envelope calculations and more sophisticated decomposition regressions imply that aggregate expenditure on lawyer-lobbying is several multiples of reported lobbying spending. We introduce the case of a particular lawyer-lobbyist and provide a theoretical discussion to situate and contextualize these findings. Collectively, this work opens a window into neglected domains of politics and reveals an important and understudied form of political inequality.

Young People Punish Undemocratic Behaviour Less Than Older People
Kristian Vrede Skaaning Frederiksen
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming 


Are young people less likely to punish undemocratic behaviour? I employ experimental data from five studies, ten countries, and seventeen unique country-year samples to reassess the proposition that young people are less committed to democracy than older people. The studies consist of four conjoint and one vignette experiments, which permit estimating an interaction between undemocratic candidate behaviour and respondent age on voting intentions. I find the interaction between undemocratic behaviour and age is negative -- such that punishment of undemocratic behaviour increases with age -- in all studies and almost all country samples. Moreover, the interaction is approximately linear and statistically significant in the pooled sample and most studies. Thus, young people are less likely to sanction undemocratic behaviour than older people. This letter contributes with the hitherto most comprehensive empirical contribution on age differences in commitment to democracy judging from punishment of undemocratic behaviour.

Community Size and Electoral Preferences: Evidence From Post-Second World War Baden-Württemberg
Luciana Fiorini et al.
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming 


We examine whether electoral preferences depend on a community's population size by studying post-Second World War Baden-Württemberg in Southwest Germany. Our identification strategy exploits the fact that the French administration zone prohibited German expellees from entering, contrary to the contiguous American zone. Population size positively predicts voting for the Social Democrats (the party advocating substantial government involvement in practically all domains) and negatively for the Christian Democrats (the small-government party advocating free-market policies). Results are neither driven by pre-existing voting patterns, religious compositions, and location- and time-specific unobservables, nor other measurable cultural, demographic, economic, or political characteristics. Alternative explanations pertaining to expellee voting behaviour or a backlash of natives against expellees appear unlikely -- population size prevails as a predominant voting predictor.

Bridging the Blue Divide: The Democrats’ New Metro Coalition and the Unexpected Prominence of Redistribution
Jacob Hacker et al.
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming


The electoral base of the Democratic Party has been transformed over the past generation. Democrats have lost ground in rural America while adding strength in cities and, more recently, suburbs. A major consequence of this shift has been the creation of a “U-shaped” Democratic voting base, with both poorer metro voters and affluent suburbanites siding with the party. This spatial alliance overlays a multi-racial one, as Democrats rely more heavily on voters of color than any other major party in American history. Many analysts have argued that the Democratic Party has managed this sea change by shifting from economic to cultural and identity appeals. This claim is consistent with leading models of two-dimensional party competition, as well as a fair amount of cross-national research on parties of the left and center-left in contemporary knowledge economies. However, we find little evidence for this claim in national Democrats’ messaging (via party platforms and on Twitter), nor, more important, in their actual policy efforts. Instead, we show that even as Democrats have increasingly relied on affluent, educated voters, the party has embraced a more ambitious economic agenda. The national party has bridged the Blue Divide not by foreswearing redistribution or foregrounding cultural liberalism, but by formulating an increasingly bold economic program -- albeit one that elides important inequalities within its metro-based multi-racial coalition. Understanding how and why Democrats have taken this path is central to understanding not just the party’s response to its shifting electorate, but the way parties manage coalitional change more broadly.

Partisan bias and evaluations of women in Congress
Jennifer Wolak
Politics, Groups, and Identities, forthcoming 


When people are asked to assess the job performance of their representatives in Congress, are women lawmakers evaluated differently from men? Some have argued that women lawmakers are harmed by gender biases, while others suggest that women politicians benefit from their gender. I argue that both hold true, where the direction of gender bias depends on constituents’ partisan motivations. Using responses from the 2006–2020 Cooperative Election Studies, I consider how partisan motivated reasoning conditions the relationship between lawmaker gender and approval of members of Congress. Among those who share the same party loyalties as their member of Congress, those represented by a woman express greater job approval than those represented by a man, all else equal. Among constituents represented by a lawmaker from the opposing party, women legislators are penalized, earning lower evaluations than men. Partisan motivations contribute to polarized evaluations of the job performance of women who serve in Congress.

Locally Controlled Minimum Wages Leapfrog Public Preferences
Gabor Simonovits & Julia Payson
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Fall 2023, Pages 543-570 


Does decentralizing policymaking authority to the local level lead to a closer match between public policies and citizen preferences? We study this question in the context of minimum wage laws, a salient and substantively important policy area with significant variation in the degree of local policymaking discretion. Using novel survey data and aggregation methods, we generate estimates of minimum wage preferences for all US cities with at least 1,000 residents and compare these preferences to actual minimum wages. We show that prevailing minimum wages are generally lower than residents prefer, and this conservative bias is most pronounced in states with preemption laws. However, locally controlled minimum wages leapfrog public preferences and are higher than residents want, on average. Finally, we consider how various counterfactual policies might improve representation and compare the conditions under which a centralized minimum wage would reduce policy bias relative to a decentralized approach.

Shuttle diplomacy
Piero Gottardi & Claudio Mezzetti
Journal of Economic Theory, March 2024


In practice mediation operates through shuttle diplomacy: the mediator goes back and forth between parties, meeting them in private. We model shuttle diplomacy as a dynamic procedure. The mediator helps each party to gradually discover (privately) her value from settlement and re-assess her bargaining position, while also proposing the terms of the deal. We show that shuttle diplomacy always allows parties to achieve an ex-post efficient final settlement. In contrast, this is not possible with a static mediation procedure. In addition, if parties have symmetric prior value distributions, shuttle diplomacy guarantees a fair split of the social value from settlement.

Academics are more specific, and practitioners more sensitive, in forecasting interventions to strengthen democratic attitudes
James Chu et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 16 January 2024 


Concern over democratic erosion has led to a proliferation of proposed interventions to strengthen democratic attitudes in the United States. Resource constraints, however, prevent implementing all proposed interventions. One approach to identify promising interventions entails leveraging domain experts, who have knowledge regarding a given field, to forecast the effectiveness of candidate interventions. We recruit experts who develop general knowledge about a social problem (academics), experts who directly intervene on the problem (practitioners), and nonexperts from the public to forecast the effectiveness of interventions to reduce partisan animosity, support for undemocratic practices, and support for partisan violence. Comparing 14,076 forecasts submitted by 1,181 forecasters against the results of a megaexperiment (n = 32,059) that tested 75 hypothesized effects of interventions, we find that both types of experts outperformed members of the public, though experts differed in how they were accurate. While academics’ predictions were more specific (i.e., they identified a larger proportion of ineffective interventions and had fewer false-positive forecasts), practitioners’ predictions were more sensitive (i.e., they identified a larger proportion of effective interventions and had fewer false-negative forecasts). Consistent with this, practitioners were better at predicting best-performing interventions, while academics were superior in predicting which interventions performed worst. Our paper highlights the importance of differentiating types of experts and types of accuracy. We conclude by discussing factors that affect whether sensitive or specific forecasters are preferable, such as the relative cost of false positives and negatives and the expected rate of intervention success.

The Reputation Politics of the Filibuster
Daniel Gibbs
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Fall 2023, Pages 469-511


Filibusters and efforts to defeat them shape the public reputation of U.S. senators and their parties. I develop a formal model to study how senators' concerns about their own and the opposing party's reputation influence their behavior in the Senate. In the model, a majority and opposition party bargain over policy. Each party earns a reputation with a core primary constituency which observes legislative bargaining and forms beliefs about its party's policy priorities. Filibusters and attempts to defeat them are costly and can therefore credibly signal that a party values a particular issue. I identify conditions under which parties use these costly procedural moves to preserve or enhance their reputation when the costs of obstruction deter purely policy-motivated parties from filibustering or attempting to defeat a filibuster. Alternatively, under certain conditions parties strategically choose not to pursue policy victories that they otherwise would either to protect their own reputation with a constituency that values other issues more highly or to deny the opposing party the opportunity to signal. I examine the model's empirical implications for the relative frequency of filibusters, cloture votes, and tabling motions and identify conditions under which the Senate is endogenously supermajoritarian.

Paying for Legitimacy: Autocracy, Nonmarket Strategy, and the Liability of Foreignness
Jin Hyung Kim & Jordan Siegel
Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming 


Although the liability of foreignness has been shown to present real economic barriers for foreign firms in various contexts around the globe, scholars continue to debate what drives this liability in different market contexts: lack of information due to institutional distance, lack of social embeddedness, discrimination, or something else. In this study, we propose a new theory, that in corporate lobbying within the nonmarket strategy context, the liability of foreignness is driven in no small part by a values-based ideological conflict stemming from the divide between democracy and autocracy. Private-sector firms from autocratic countries face costs of illegitimacy in Washington, D.C., and professional corporate lobbyists charge such firms a fee premium, in effect, to pay for legitimacy. We conduct an empirical study of the lobbying fees charged by professional corporate lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to their domestic and foreign firm clients, and the results strongly support the predictions of our theory. We also show that the liability of foreignness in this context endures for foreign firms from autocratic countries over the 15-year length of our sample period. Offering a new theoretical perspective as well as new empirical findings regarding the liability of foreignness, our study has practical implications for managers of foreign firms and may also generalize to other market contexts.


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