• Delegation to an Overconfident Expert (with Scott Ashworth) (The Journal of Politics: 81, no. 2 (April 2019): 692-696) (Link)

Working Papers

  • Delegation and Political Turnover (Revise and Resubmit – The Journal of Theoretical Politics) (Link)
    • Abstract: We study a 2 period delegation model with an uncertain future principal. One principal decides whether to delegate policy making authority in the first stage to an agent or make policy herself. Before the second stage there is an election, and another principal with different preferences may take power. The main result is that the first principal can exploit the uncertainty over the future principal to extract policy surplus from the agent. This surplus makes the Incumbent better off than she would be without the possibility of turnover. In addition, we find that policy stability can increase as elections become more competitive. We then show that increased polarization between legislators has an ambiguous effect on the likelihood of delegation and on legislator welfare. Finally, as the legislator becomes more likely to retain office, she prefers more policy conflict with the agent.


  • Interest Group Competition over Campaign Contributions and Lobbying (with Dan Alexander) (Under Review) (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) (Link)
    • Abstract: Formal theories of accountability and bureaucratic politics often consider voter-politician interactions in isolation from politician-bureaucrat interactions. In this paper, we study a model of electoral accountability and policymaking 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 can then choose to reelect the politician, while the politician can expropriate some of the bureaucrat’s output for his own ends. 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.


  • Populism and Bureaucracy (with Massimo Morelli) (Please e-mail for a preliminary copy)
    • Abstract: How do populist politicians influence the makeup and quality of the bureaucracy? To help answer this question, we analyze a dynamic principal-agent model between a politician and a bureaucrat. In every period, the politician decides whether to retain the incumbent bureaucrat or fire her and hire a new agent. The bureaucrat in office then implements policy. After policy implementation, there is an election where the politician can be removed from office. Politicians come in two types, populist and non-populist. Similarly, bureaucrats come in two types, competent and loyal. We show that populists prefer loyal bureaucrats while non-populists prefer competent ones. This preference leads to more bureaucratic turnover in strong bureaucracies when populists are in power. We then show that term limits can make non-populists act more like populists, increasing turnover in strong bureaucracies. Finally, we analyze the strategic incentives of competent bureaucrats. When future populists are relatively unlikely, competent bureaucrats may sabotage populists today to help remove them from office. However, if another populist is likely to take office, competent bureaucrats instead feign loyalty to populists today to guard against extreme outcomes tomorrow.

Research in Progress

  • Supreme Court Pivots (with Gleason Judd)
  • Police Accountability and Oversight (with Bocar Ba)
  • Designing Access: A Mechanism Design Approach (with Dan Alexander)
  • Passing Amendments (with Jack Paine)
  • Information Content of Random Shocks
  • Federalism, Information and Delegation
  • Heterogeneous Priors and Hierarchical Accountability