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Working Papers In Circulation

Do Constituents Know (or Care) about the Lawmaking Effectiveness of their Representatives? (With Daniel M. Butler, Adam G. Huges, and Craig Volden)

Substantial evidence exists that members of the U.S. Congress vary in their lawmaking effectiveness. Less known, however, is whether constituents have the knowledge and inclination to hold their representatives accountable, based on their effectiveness. We conducted three separate survey experiments, informing some constituents about lawmakers’ effectiveness and comparing their responses to those with the baseline level of information. We find that citizens, municipal officials, and voters demonstrate little knowledge of their elected officials’ lawmaking effectiveness. When presented with objective and credible information about lawmaking effectiveness, however, these groups express greater approval of more effective lawmakers. Effects were strongest among ideological moderates, but were even pronounced among partisans, who approved of effective representatives of the opposing party and disapproved of ineffective representatives from their own party. In contrast, the new information we provided had little effect on the subset of municipal officials who already had extensive prior contact with their representatives.

Legislative Bargaining with Partisan Delegation (With Thomas Choate and John A. Weymark)

We use an extension of the Baron–Ferejohn model of legislative bargaining in which there are three legislators, two of whom have partisan ties, to analyze the division of a fixed political resource in a majoritarian legislature. A legislator’s preferences depend on the shares that he and any copartisan receive. We ask if there are circumstances under which a partisan legislator is willing to delegate proposal-making authority to a party leader so as to take advantage of the special proposal rights accorded by the legislature to this office rather than retaining equal-recognition proposal rights for himself. We show that this is the case only if (i) the leader’s proposal recognition probability is larger than the probability that one of the partisans is recognized when the legislators act independently, (ii) partisan affiliation is sufficiently strong, and (iii) the legislators are sufficiently impatient. The relevance of this result for Aldrich and Rohde’s conditional party government thesis and Krehbiel’s First Congressional Parties Paradox are considered.

How Experienced Legislative Staff Contribute to Effective Lawmaking (With Jesse M. Crosson, Geoffrey M. Lorenz, and Craig Volden)

Members of Congress seek to allocate their scarce staff resources carefully, given their multiple, sometimes competing, objectives. Using data on House members’ staff allocations from 1994 to 2013, we demonstrate that legislators advance more (and more significant) legislation when they retain a more experienced legislative staff. This benefit, however, accrues mostly to committee chairs, whose institutional privileges allow them to leverage experienced staff, and to the most junior legislators, whose inexperience can be best supplemented by experienced aides. Finally, we show that legislators do not generally benefit from large legislative staffs, but rather from having individual legislative staffers with high levels of experience. This finding suggests that a targeted strategy to retain the most experienced legislative staff in Congress may pay the greatest dividends in regards to lawmaking.

Are Bipartisan Lawmakers More Effective? (With Craig Volden)

We use the Bipartisanship Index (Lugar and Montgomery 2015) and Legislative Effectiveness Scores (Volden and Wiseman 2014) from the U.S. House of Representatives to explore whether bipartisan lawmakers are more effective at advancing their legislative proposals into law. Across numerous specifications we find that bipartisanship is positively related with lawmaking effectiveness. This relationship is conditional, however, on both expected and unexpected factors. For example, intuitively, bipartisanship is more important for minority-party members who wish to advance their sponsored bills than for majority-party members. Perhaps less intuitively, however, bipartisanship is at least as important for ideological extremists as it is for centrists, and bipartisanship is a more influential strategy for lawmakers in recent Congresses than for those in previous decades.

Chevron, State Farm, and the Impact of Judicial Doctrine on Bureaucratic Policymaking (With John R. Wright)

We point to how two landmark Supreme Court cases, Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association of the U.S. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. (1983), and Chevron U.S.A., Inc., v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (1984) constrained the effectiveness of congressional and presidential control of the bureaucracy in substantial ways. We provide an overview of these cases, and we note how the dominant theories of bureaucratic policymaking in the political science literature fail to account for judicial doctrine in a meaningful way. We illustrate the implications of these cases for recent debates surrounding net neutrality policies, and we argue that bureaucratic control over the past 40 years has tilted in favor of the judicial branch of American national government.

Government Standards, Activists, and the Prospects for Industry Self-Regulation (With Craig Volden)

We develop a game-theoretic model wherein a government establishes a standard for product quality while possessing extremely limited enforcement abilities, and a firm chooses whether to comply with, or exceed, the government quality standard. Following the firm’s product choice, an activist decides whether or not to exert costly effort to learn the firm’s choice and publicize that choice to the marketplace. Equilibrium results identify when the activist will play this informational role and when the firm will self-regulate in response to the activist’s threat. Moreover, we identify complementarities that exist between government standards and activist engagement. Governments lacking enforcement capacity can rely on informative activists, and those activists become more effective when the government advocates a high quality standard.