Research

Published and Forthcoming Articles

  • Delegation and Political Turnover (The Journal of Theoretical Politics – 2020(Link)
  • Delegation to an Overconfident Expert (with Scott Ashworth) (The Journal of Politics – 2019) (Link)

Working Papers

  • Case Selection and Supreme Court Pivots (with Gleason Judd) (Revise and Resubmit – Political Science Research and Methods(Link)
    • Abstract: How does the Rule of Four affect Supreme Court decisions? We show two effects of changing a “hearing pivot” justice who is decisive for case selection. First, a court with more extreme hearing pivots will hear a larger set of cases. For example, as the conservative hearing pivot becomes more extreme, the court hears a broader range of cases with liberal status quo precedents. Second, more extreme hearing pivots shrink dispositional majorities and lead to more polarized rulings. If the median justice becomes more extreme without changing the hearing pivots, then rulings are more extreme. The effect on the range of cases heard, however, is smaller than from changes in hearing pivots. Finally, we show that case selection can also depend on non-median, non-hearing-pivot justices. If an extreme justice is replaced with someone even more extreme, the gridlock interval can expand because final rulings shift away from the hearing pivot, thus making status quo precedents more appealing.
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  • Bureaucrats under Populism (with Massimo Morelli) (Under ReviewCEPR Discussion Paper 14499 (Ungated Link)
    • Abstract: We explore the consequences of populism for bureaucrats’ incentives by analyzing a model of delegated policy-making between politicians and bureaucrats. Populist leaders prefer loyalist bureaucrats over competent ones, and this leads competent bureaucrats to engage in strategic policy-making: they sometimes feign loyalty to the current incumbent; and they sometimes implement the correct policy even at the cost of being fired. We show that feigning loyalty becomes more likely as the probability of a populist-loyalist combination increases. We also show that bureaucratic turnover is higher under populists when the bureaucracy is strong and higher under non-populists when the bureaucracy is weak.
  • Campaign Spending and Lobbying (with Dan Alexander)  (Link)
    • Abstract: Interest groups can influence governmental policy through multiple channels. First, they may spend money before elections to help elect their preferred candidate. Second, they may also lobby after the election to affect the implemented policy. We analyze a game-theoretic model of campaign spending and lobbying to understand the strategic relationship between these two means of outside influence. We consider how several lobbying environments, each featuring different access to the elected politician, affect both the willingness to spend during the campaign and the final policy. Campaign spending is a function of both expected final policy due to lobbying and also expected lobbying effort costs. We find that increased policy moderation often, but not always, accompanies decreased campaign spending. When extreme interest groups give campaign contributions in exchange for access, campaign spending decreases as policy becomes more extreme. Open-access lobbying is always best for the voter. We then show that caps on campaign contributions may have minimal effect on policy because of later lobbying efficacy. Finally, we highlight comparative statics that predict different empirical patterns of contributions depending on whether politicians grant lobbying access to all interest groups or only to ideologically-aligned groups. Our results demonstrate that interest-group and candidate polarization must be considered relative to one another; the effect of greater interest-group polarization depends to a large extent on whether it implies more or less ideological proximity to the group’s aligned candidate.

 

  • Accountability in Governing Hierarchies (with Ian Turner and Christopher Li)  (Under Review(Link)
    • Abstract: Formal theories of accountability and bureaucratic politics typically consider voter-politician interactions in isolation from politician-bureaucrat interactions. In this paper, we study a model of electoral accountability with a hierarchy consisting of a voter, a politician, and a bureaucrat. The politician and bureaucrat both produce government output valued by the voter. The voter controls the politician via election and the politician provides incentives to bureaucrats, who may have conflicting interests. We show that when times are conducive to high quality governance — budgets are large and players are farsighted — incorporating the bureaucratic layer of the hierarchy makes for weaker accountability standards. However, when times are tough and budgets are small or players are myopic it is possible that voters may benefit from increasing their demands on elected officials. These accountability standards change even when reelection does not depend at all on the bureaucrat’s output directly.

 

 

Research in Progress

  • Algorithms and Accountability
  • Inter-party Competition vs Governing Ability
  • Crony Populism
  • Police Accountability and Oversight (with Bocar Ba)
  • Special Interest Groups and Candidate Entry (with Dan Alexander)
  • Passing Amendments (with Jack Paine)
  • Policy Bundling and Hierarchical Accountability