Research

Published and Forthcoming Articles

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

Working Papers

  • Interest Group Competition over Campaign Contributions and Lobbying (with Dan Alexander) (Job Market Paper) (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) (Link)
    • Abstract: We explore the consequences of populism for bureaucratic policy-making. Populist leaders prefer loyal bureaucrats over competent agents. This leads competent bureaucrats to engage in strategic policy-making that distorts policy away from the first-best outcome. Competent bureaucrats respond to the threat of future populist leaders in a few different ways. First, they may feign loyalty to the current incumbent, therefore making future politicians believe the bureaucrat is loyal instead of competent. Second, they may act to sabotage a populist’s reelection chances in hopes of a non-populist taking over in the future. Finally, they may work to improve a non-populist’s reelection chances at the expense of implementing the most efficient policy today. We then show that bureaucratic turnover is higher under populists when bureaucracies are strong and higher under non-populists when bureaucracies are weak.

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