Storied institutions

Kevin Lewis

November 20, 2017

Eroding Norms and Democratic Deconsolidation
Paul Howe
Journal of Democracy, October 2017, Pages 15-29


Two recent papers in the Journal of Democracy highlight a disturbing erosion in public support for core democratic principles in a number of Western democracies over the past twenty years. The common assumption is that this trend reflects growing public dissatisfaction with the operation of the democratic system. This paper (focused on the United States and drawing upon World Values Survey data) rejects this interpretation and argues instead that the rise of antidemocratic opinion is more closely linked to shifting social and cultural values, in particular burgeoning antisocial attitudes. Disregard for democratic norms is part of a larger social transformation that has seen rising disengagement and alienation, particularly among younger generations and lower socioeconomic classes.

Supporting Tax Policy Change Through Accounting Discretion: Evidence from the 2012 Elections
Vishal Baloria & Kenneth Klassen
Management Science, forthcoming


Some corporations attempt to lessen their tax burden through involvement in the legislative process. We identify firms that contributed to congressional candidates who favor reductions in the U.S. corporate statutory tax rate. This support created a temporary incentive to manage effective tax rates (ETRs) up. We document that these firms increased their reported effective tax rate in the two calendar quarters preceding the 2012 election relative to adjacent periods and other firms supporting candidates in the same election. We find that the variation in upward ETR management is correlated with firm-level proxies for potential reputational costs, capital markets costs, and long-run tax burdens. The variation in upward ETR management is also correlated with firm-candidate-level proxies for strength of relationships and competitiveness of election races. Our findings provide new evidence on accounting choices in support of corporate political activity and on the political cost hypothesis in the tax setting.

How the news media activate public expression and influence national agendas
Gary King, Benjamin Schneer & Ariel White
Science, 10 November 2017, Pages 776-780


We demonstrate that exposure to the news media causes Americans to take public stands on specific issues, join national policy conversations, and express themselves publicly - all key components of democratic politics - more often than they would otherwise. After recruiting 48 mostly small media outlets, we chose groups of these outlets to write and publish articles on subjects we approved, on dates we randomly assigned. We estimated the causal effect on proximal measures, such as website pageviews and Twitter discussion of the articles' specific subjects, and distal ones, such as national Twitter conversation in broad policy areas. Our intervention increased discussion in each broad policy area by ~62.7% (relative to a day's volume), accounting for 13,166 additional posts over the treatment week, with similar effects across population subgroups.

Back-Channel Representation: A Study of the Strategic Communication of Senators with the US Department of Labor
Melinda Ritchie
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


An underappreciated way members of Congress represent interests is by pursuing policy goals through their communication with the bureaucracy. I argue that the bureaucracy provides an alternative, covert way for cross-pressured legislators, who face diverging pressures from party leaders, interest groups, and subconstituencies, to satisfy conflicting interests. Using original data of senators' communication with the US Department of Labor from 2005 to 2012 (109th through 112th Congresses), I show that, when faced with cross-pressures from party and constituency, senators strategically choose less visible, back-channel means for pursuing policy goals. These findings provide a new perspective on representation by demonstrating that legislators pursue policy goals outside of the legislative process in an effort to evade accountability.

Inspecting the Investigators: An Analysis of Television Investigative Journalism and Factors Leading to Its Production
Jesse Abdenour
Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, forthcoming


A nationwide content analysis of television stations showed low levels of investigative journalism quality and quantity. Most stories introduced as "investigative" were not investigative by definition. However, in an accompanying survey, about half of respondents said investigative quality and quantity had recently increased at their stations. Utilizing Shoemaker and Reese's hierarchical model, organizational and social-institutional variables were used to predict investigative production. Stations in competitive markets and stations owned by publicly traded corporations produced more investigative journalism and were more likely to emphasize investigations. Stations emphasizing profit were less likely to emphasize investigative reporting.

The Political Economy of Compensatory Federalism
Sanford Gordon & Dimitri Landa
NYU Working Paper, September 2017


To what extent does the federal structure of policymaking in the United States mitigate or exacerbate national political conflict? We develop a model of two-level governance in a federal system in the presence of interstate preference heterogeneity and cross-state externalities. The key underlying intuition is that states with high demand for public spending or regulation are better positioned to adjust state-level policies to compensate for perceived inadequacies in national policy than corresponding states with low demand. We explore the normative and behavioral implications of this asymmetry under majoritarian and supermajoritarian national policymaking institutions, and use the model to account for a number of empirical regularities in U.S. politics and policymaking.

The Politics of Foreclosures
Sumit Agarwal et al.
Ohio State University Working Paper, October 2017


U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee considered many important banking reforms in 2009-2010 including the Dodd-Frank Act. We show that during this period, the foreclosure starts on delinquent mortgages were delayed in the districts of committee members even though there was no difference in delinquency rates between committee and non-committee districts. In these areas, banks delayed the start of the foreclosure process by 0.5 months (relative to the 12-month average). The total estimated cost of delay to lenders is an order of magnitude greater than the campaign contributions by the Political Action Committees of the largest mortgage servicing banks to the committee members in that period and is comparable to these banks' lobbying expenditures.

The Impact of District Magnitude on the Legislative Behavior of State Representatives
Jeffrey Taylor, Paul Herrnson & James Curry
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming


This study demonstrates that district magnitude (the number of officials elected from an electoral district) affects the behavioral choices and policymaking contributions of legislators. We theorize that legislators elected from districts of larger magnitudes focus much of their efforts on relatively low-cost, high-visibility activities that allow for easy credit claiming, while their colleagues from lower magnitude districts focus more on relatively high-cost, low-visibility work required to move policy proposals through the legislative process. We test our hypotheses using data recording the legislative activities of members of the Maryland House of Delegates, which elects its member from districts of different magnitudes. The results, which are mostly supportive, have implications for the impact of institutional structures on representation and policymaking.

Signing Statements and Presidentializing Legislative History
John de Figueiredo & Edward Stiglitz
Administrative Law Review, forthcoming


Presidents often attach statements to the bills they sign into law, purporting to celebrate, construe, or object to provisions in the statute. Though long a feature of U.S. lawmaking, the President has avowedly attempted to use these signing statements as tool of strategic influence over judicial decisionmaking since the 1980s - as a way of creating "presidential legislative history" to supplement and, at times, supplant the traditional congressional legislative history conventionally used by the courts to interpret statutes. In this Article, we examine a novel dataset of judicial opinion citations to presidential signing statements to conduct the most comprehensive empirical examination of how courts have received presidential legislative history to date. Three main findings emerge from this analysis. First, contrary to the pervasive (and legitimate) fears in the literature on signing statements, courts rarely cite signing statements in their decisions. Second, in the aggregate, when courts cite signing statements, they cite them in predictably partisan ways, with judges citing Presidents' signing statements from their own political parties more often than those of the opposing parties. This effect, however, is driven entirely by the behavior of Republican-appointed appellate jurists. Third, courts predominately employ signing statements to buttress aligned statutory text and conventional sources of legislative history, and seemingly never rely on them to override contrary plain statutory text or even unified traditional legislative history. This suggests that signing statements have low rank among interpretative tools and courts primarily use them to complement rather than substitute for congressional legislative history. In this sense, Presidents have largely failed to establish an alternative corpus of valid interpretive material.

Endogenous Institutions: The Case of U.S. Congressional Redistricting
Dahyeon Jeong & Ajay Shenoy
University of California Working Paper, September 2017


We measure where and to what end parties take control of Congressional redistricting, which lets them redraw districts to favor their own candidates. We exploit the discontinuous change in a party's control of redistricting triggered when its share of seats in the state legislature exceeds 50 percent. Parties capture redistricting in states where they have suffered recent losses, which are temporarily reversed by redistricting. Opposition candidates are 11 percentage points less likely to win House elections just after redistricting. Consistent with recent Supreme Court rulings, African Americans are more likely to be segregated into overwhelmingly black districts under Republican redistricting.

How Internal Constraints Shape Interest Group Activities: Evidence from Access-Seeking PACs
Zhao Li
Stanford Working Paper, October 2017


Interest groups contribute much less to campaigns than legally allowed. Consequently, prevailing theories infer these contributions must yield minimal returns. I argue that constraints on PAC fundraising may also explain why interest groups give so little. I illuminate one such constraint: access-seeking PACs rely on voluntary donations from affiliated individuals (e.g. employees), and these PACs alienate donors with partisan preferences when giving to the opposite party. First, an original survey of corporate PAC donors demonstrates they know how their PACs allocate contributions across parties. Next, both a survey experiment and difference-in-differences analysis of real giving show donors withhold donations to access-seeking PACs when PACs give to out-partisan politicians. Donors' partisan preferences thus limit access-seeking PACs' fundraising and influence. This provides a new perspective on why there is little interest group money in elections, and has broad implications for how partisan preferences and other internal constraints shape interest group strategy.

Exercising Unilateral Discretion: Presidential Justifications of Unilateral Powers in a Shared Powers System
Brandon Rottinghaus
American Politics Research, forthcoming


There is a puzzle in the literature on presidential unilateral power that, on one hand, presents executive orders as the outcome of presidential prerogative but on the other hand identifies delegated discretion as a limit to presidential action. To address this question, we examine the use of delegated authority in unilateral orders from 1951 to 2009 and relate these to the ideological underpinnings of the institutions delegating and overseeing the use of this discretion (Congress and the Court). Our findings indicate that presidents are likely to issue unilateral directives with more substantive discretion when ideologically farther away from either the medians in Congress or the Supreme Court, but more likely to scale back their use of discretion when both branches are jointly ideologically distant from the president. The results demonstrate support for both an assertive and restrained president when relying upon delegated authority to act unilaterally.

Widows, Congressional Representation, and the (Ms.)Appropriation of a Name
Danielle Lupton, Sahar Parsa & Steven Sprick Schuster
Colgate University Working Paper, November 2017


For much of the 20th century, widowhood was the primary path for women into the U.S. Congress. However, little is understood on how widows' gender, familial connections and name recognition widows acquire from their husbands may affect their political behavior. Drawing on insights from the literatures across American politics, comparative politics, and economics, we argue that widows in Congress will have an inherent name brand advantage, providing them more freedom to pursue their own policy agendas. Using a differences-in-differences analysis of legislative voting behavior from the 63rd to 104th Congresses, we provide evidence that widows are more liberal than their husbands and follow their own policy agendas. We also show that widows are more liberal than other women. Thus, our results indicate that widowhood embeds both the gender and the dynastic dimension of these legislators. Further evidence suggests that this difference is rooted in the name brand advantage that widows have compared to other women, highlighting the complementarity between these individuals' dynastic identity and their gender identity.

The Retention of Expertise and Productivity in State Legislative Committees
Todd Makse
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, December 2017, Pages 418-440


Legislative committees rely on the expertise and experience of their members, but instability in committee systems threatens the enhancements in productivity associated with specialization. This can occur in two ways, both of which are more common in state legislative committees than they are in Congress. First, membership retention on committees is generally lower, even after accounting for differing levels of legislative turnover across legislatures. Second, many state legislative committee systems undergo reorganization between sessions, changing the policy jurisdictions, and, therefore, the applicability of members' previously developed expertise. In this article, I examine the consequences of these two sources of committee instability on legislative output in 14 state legislatures. I find that both membership retention and jurisdictional reorganization significantly affect the number of bills processed through committees and the number of bills ultimately enacted. These linkages are also conditioned on several committee and institutional factors, particularly legislative turnover. Last, I find a weaker but discernible effect of membership retention on committees' propensity to perform their gatekeeping role.

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