Swamp Creatures

Kevin Lewis

February 21, 2020

Revisiting McGovern-Fraser: Party Nationalization and the Rhetoric of Reform
Jaime Sánchez
Journal of Policy History, January 2020, Pages 1-24


The Democratic Party faced a crisis of political legitimacy in the late 1960s as distrust and protest permeated its electoral base. In response, the Democratic National Committee established the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection, tasked with restructuring the party’s presidential nomination process. Contrary to the conventional historical narrative of the McGovern-Fraser Commission that has focused on a supposed displacement of the party’s old guard by radical insurgents, this article instead argues that the main impetus for reform came from national party leaders seeking to build up the legitimacy and authority of the National Committee. Commission Chair George McGovern and the DNC used a particular reform rhetoric that charged state parties with the corruption of the political process, necessitating rescue by an empowered national party. This focus on the nationalizing impulses behind McGovern-Fraser serves to shift our attention away from ideological struggles and toward institutional motives.

Polarization and Corruption in America
Mickael Melki & Andrew Pickering
European Economic Review, forthcoming


Using panel data from the US states, we document a robust negative relationship between state-level government corruption and ideological polarization. This finding is sustained when state polarization is instrumented using lagged state neighbor ideology. We argue that polarization increases the expected costs of engaging in corruption, especially deterring marginal low-level corruption. Consistent with this thesis federal prosecutorial effort falls and case quality increases with polarization. Tangible anti-corruption measures including the stringency of state ethics’ laws and independent commissions for redistricting are also associated with increased state polarization.

Longevity returns to political office
Sebastian Barfort, Robert Klemmensen & Erik Gahner Larsen
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming


Does political office cause worse or better longevity prospects? Two perspectives in the literature offer contradicting answers. First, increased income, social status, and political connections obtained through holding office can increase longevity. Second, increased stress and working hours associated with holding office can have detrimental effects on longevity. To provide causal evidence, we exploit a regression discontinuity design with unique data on the longevity of candidates for US gubernatorial office. The results show that politicians winning a close election live 5–10 years longer than candidates who lose.

Politician Careers and SEC Enforcement Against Financial Misconduct
Mihir Mehta & Wanli Zhao
Journal of Accounting and Economics, forthcoming


We document that corporate financial misconduct has significant consequences for politicians’ election outcomes and, in particular, those politicians that serve on U.S. congressional committees with SEC-relevant oversight responsibilities (“SEC-relevant politicians”). These politicians display a 31% greater likelihood of losing a reelection campaign after a local firm faces SEC enforcement for financial misconduct. We also document that SEC-relevant politicians appear to influence the SEC to limit career effects due to the potential consequences from enforcement against local firms. First, the timing of enforcement action announcements around SEC-relevant politicians’ elections appears opportunistic. Second, firms in the districts of SEC-relevant politicians are less likely to receive SEC enforcement actions relative to other firms and, when faced with enforcement, receive smaller penalties. Collectively, these results suggest that politicians’ career concerns impede the SEC’s enforcement efforts.

He Said, She Said: The Gender Double Bind in Legislator–Constituent Communication
Mia Costa
Politics & Gender, forthcoming


Citizens hold gender-specific stereotypes about women in political office, yet scholars disagree on whether these stereotypes lead to a “double bind” in which female legislators are held to higher standards than male legislators. Two survey experiments reveal how citizen evaluations of elite responsiveness to constituent mail are conditioned by gender and sexist attitudes. The findings suggest that a double bind does exist in legislator–constituent communication, even among people who have positive views of women. For instance, although the least sexist respondents favor communication from female legislators regardless of the quality of communication, they also punish women, but not men, for taking longer to respond to constituent mail. Male legislators are also more likely to be rewarded for being friendly as respondents’ sexism increases, but female legislators do not enjoy the same advantage, likely due to gender stereotypes and expectations regarding women's behavior.

Legislative Transparency and Credit Risk
Jeffrey Harden, Justin Kirkland & Patrick Shea
Legislative Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Open governance requirements are designed to improve accountability, which implies that transparent governments are more trustworthy stewards of their publicly invested power. However, transparency may also reduce institutional effectiveness and inhibit political compromise, diminishing the capacity to manage resources responsibly. We assess empirical support for these competing perspectives in the context of American state legislatures, many of which have become exempt from state sunshine laws in recent decades. We leverage variation in the timing of these legislative exemptions to identify the effect of removing transparency in a crucial governing institution on investors' risk perceptions of states' general obligation bonds. Our analysis of these data during the period 1995–2010 suggests that removing legislative transparency reduces state credit risk. We conclude that while openness in government may be normatively desirable, shielding legislative proceedings from public view may actually be better for states' debt repayment capacity, improving their overall fiscal health.

Electoral Institutions and Electoral Cycles in Investment Incentives: A Field Experiment on Over 3,000 U.S. Municipalities
Nathan Jensen, Michael Findley & Daniel Nielson
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Through a field experiment and audit study, we test how the electoral calendar affects the use of local economic development policies. We explore how electoral timing along with local political institutions and party composition affect local governments’ offers of investment incentives to outside firms. We legally incorporated a consultancy and, on behalf of a real investor in manufacturing, approached roughly 3,000 U.S. municipalities with inquiries. The main experimental results show no greater tendency to offer incentives for investment anticipated prior to than after elections — a null result that is estimated with high precision. Limiting the sample to municipalities that specialize in manufacturing, the relevant subgroup, suggests that election timing matters in this most likely set of locales. Some observational findings include additional evidence on how direct elections of executives and partisanship correlate with incentive offers.

Partisan Gerrymandering, Clustering, or Both? A New Approach to a Persistent Question
Richard Powell, Jesse Clark & Matthew Dube
Election Law Journal, forthcoming


It has long been noted that electing members of the U.S. House of Representatives in single-member, mutually exclusive districts often leads to discrepancies between the partisanship of the electorate and the party distribution in the House. There has been a spirited debate in the literature about the extent to which this is due to demographic clustering or intentional gerrymandering. This study presents direct tests of both of these potential causes using a simulation-based approach that improves upon similar studies in the past. We find that while there is a significant amount of demographic clustering, redistricting procedures account for a much greater portion of the partisan bias in the House. Furthermore, our results indicate that, in the 113th Congress (2013–15), Republicans were overrepresented in the House by about 15 seats, of which only a few can be attributed to demographic clustering.

Do interest groups reward politicians for their votes in the legislature? Evidence from the Great Recession
Sungmun Choi
Applied Economics, forthcoming


Interest groups lobby politicians in various ways to influence their policy decisions, especially, their voting decisions in the legislature. Most, if not all, of the studies on this issue examine ”pre-vote” lobbying activities of interest groups that occur before politicians vote in the legislature. In this paper, however, I examine ”post-vote” lobbying activities of interest groups that occur after politicians vote in the legislature. By using data on the amount of monetary contributions given by interest groups to the members of the U.S. House of Representatives who have served in the 109th (2005–06) through 111th (2009–10) Congress, I find evidence that voting in favour of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) of 2008, one of the most significant pieces of legislation and possibly the biggest government bailout in U.S. economic history, has increased the amount of monetary contributions that politicians receive from the interest groups in the financial sector after the passage of the EESA. I also discuss two reasons for such post-vote lobbying and find empirical evidence for one of them.

Are Political and Charitable Giving Substitutes? Evidence from the United States
Maria Petrova et al.
NBER Working Paper, January 2020


We provide evidence that individuals substitute between political contributions and charitable contributions. We document these findings using micro data from the American Red Cross and from the Federal Election Commission. As a source of causal identification, we exploit exogenous shocks to charitable and political giving. First, we show that foreign natural disasters, which are positive shocks to charitable giving, crowd out political giving. Second, we show that political advertisement campaigns, which are positive shocks to political giving, crowd out charitable giving. Our evidence suggests that individuals give to political and charitable causes to satisfy similar needs. Our findings also suggest that some of the drivers of charitable giving, such as other-regarding preferences, may be driving political giving too.

Communicating Imperatives Requires Psychological Closeness But Creates Psychological Distance
David Markowitz & Paul Slovic
Journal of Language and Social Psychology, forthcoming


This article evaluates the psychological correlates of imperative speech through pronouns. We demonstrate that people communicate with more collective immediacy (“we” words) when using imperatives than nonimperatives in an experiment (Study 1, N = 828) and field studies of American politicians (Study 2a: N = 123,678 speeches), and Joseph Stalin (Study 2b: N = 593 speeches). However, respondents experience a psychological distancing effect after an imperative (fewer “I” words). This experimental pattern (Study 3: N = 852) also holds in the field using U.S. Supreme Court dissents from the Roberts Court (Study 4: N = 644). Exploratory findings suggest that third-person plural pronouns (“they” words) are used more when communicating imperative speech relative to nonimperative speech. Our evidence supports an interpersonal imperatives asymmetry: imperatives demand psychological support when communicating how the world must be, but they undermine the autonomy of respondents. Social and psychological implications of these data are discussed.

Measuring the Influence of Political Actors on the Federal Budget
Ben Hammond & Leah Rosenstiel
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


When estimating the political determinants of the federal budget, scholars face a choice between using measures of funding and measures of spending as their outcome of interest. We examine the consequences of this choice. In particular, we argue that spending outcomes may serve as a poor test of the research questions scholars seek to answer, since spending data conflate competing budgetary influences, are downstream measures of the appropriations that originated them, and induce measurement error. To test our claim, we compare the spending data used in a recent study (Berry and Fowler 2016: American Journal of Political Science 60 (3): 692–708) with an original data set of military construction appropriations. While an analysis of the spending data produces a null result, the same analysis using the appropriations data provides strong evidence that legislators use their committee positions to distribute pork. Our findings have broad implications for studies that use measures of spending in the congressional and presidency literatures.


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