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

  • 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 policy-making 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.

 

  • Bureaucracy under Populism (with Massimo Morelli) (Link)
    • Abstract: We explore the consequences of populism for bureaucrats’ incentives by analyzing a model of delegated policy-making between politicians and bureaucrats. We characterize equilibrium behavior for politicians and bureaucrats when politicians may or may not be populist and bureaucrats may or may not be experts. First, we show that populist leaders prefer non-expert bureaucrats over competent agents. We then show that this leads competent bureaucrats to engage in strategic policy-making. Competent bureaucrats may feign loyalty to the current incumbent, therefore making future politicians believe the bureaucrat is loyal instead of competent. Second, they may 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. Next, we show the bureaucratic turnover is higher under populists when the bureaucracy is strong and higher under non-populists when the bureaucracy is weak.

 

  • Case Selection and Supreme Court Pivots (with Gleason Judd) (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, as this justice becomes more extreme, the court hears a larger set of policies. That is, as the hearing pivot becomes more conservative, the court hears more cases with liberal status quo precedents. Second, as the hearing pivot becomes more extreme, dispositional majorities shrink and rulings are more polarized. When the median justice becomes more extreme without changing the hearing pivot, rulings become more extreme as the majority opinion shifts. Yet, the set of cases heard changes very little. Finally, we show that changing non-pivotal justices also affects case selection. If an extreme justice is replaced with someone even more extreme, this may expand the gridlock interval. Extreme justices pull the bargaining policy away from the hearing pivot, thus making status quo precedents more appealing.

 

Research in Progress

  • Algorithms and Accountability
  • Entry and Exit in International Organizations
  • 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