Category Archives: Elected Officials

What Is ALEC? Learn About the Organization Writing Your State Laws

Source: Sophie Hayssen, Teen Vogue, September 25, 2020

The American Legislative Exchange Commission writes “model legislation” that detractors say “sustains corporate power.”

….ALEC has existed for decades, but spent most of its life in the shadows, cultivating a reputation as a conservative organizational powerhouse. On its website, ALEC describes itself as a “nonpartisan” organization “of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism.” Though that description may appear staid at first glance, its detractors argue that ALEC is central to some of the most profound shifts in American politics over the last several decades. Groups like Dream Defenders and the Center for Constitutional Rights, have accused it of resembling a “shadow-state apparatus” and promoting “legislation that sustains corporate power.”

Here’s what you need to know about the controversial organization…..

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Gender, Power and Leadership in Troubled Times

Source: Emilia Belknap, Laura Shaw, Meryl Kenny, Political Insight, Volume 11 Issue 2, June 2020

…Why do gender inequalities in political leadership persist? And (why) does it matter? We examine these questions in the context of two recent and pivotal leadership contests: the 2020 UK Labour leadership election and the US Democratic presidential primary. We ask whether these contests represent a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ for women, evaluating both the opportunities for, and obstacles to, women’s political leadership. We then evaluate why gender (in)equality at the top matters, assessing the gendered dynamics of political leadership, and evaluating the implications for women’s political participation. We conclude by reflecting on the future prospects for women’s political leadership in troubled times….

A Failure of Political Communication Not a Failure of Bureaucracy: The Danger of Presidential Misinformation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: William Hatcher, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
President Trump’s communications during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic violate principles of public health, such as practicing transparency and deferring to medical experts. Moreover, the president’s communications are dangerous and misleading, and his lack of leadership during the crisis limits the nation’s response to the problem, increases political polarization around public health issues of social distancing, and spreads incorrect information about health-related policies and medical procedures. To correct the dangerous path that the nation is on, the administration needs to adopt a more expert-centered approach to the crisis, and President Trump needs to practice compassion, empathy, and transparency in his communications.

Learning from Campaign Finance Disclosures

Source: Abby K. Wood, University of Southern California Gould School of Law, USC CLASS Research Papers Series No. CLASS20-10, Date Written: June 10, 2020

From the abstract:
In an age of dark money – the anonymous political spending facilitated by gaps in our campaign finance disclosure laws after Citizens United – the Supreme Court’s campaign finance disclosure jurisprudence may be on a collision course with campaign finance disclosure laws. The collision can be avoided if the court right-sizes its assumptions around the informational benefits of campaign finance disclosure. It is therefore urgent to help the court understand what we learn from campaign finance transparency.

Campaign finance transparency teaches us more than one-dimensional information about how progressive or conservative a candidate is. It also helps us learn about candidate type. As I explain in this Article, social scientists, including myself, have run several studies examining voter learning from campaign finance information. When voters learn about a candidate’s position with regards to dark money, they learn and vote differently than if they did not have that information. And, as I show using experimental methods and using data from the FEC audits in the 1970s, where campaign finance compliance information is available to voters, voters reward over compliance and punish failure to comply. In other words, transparency about campaign finance disclosure and compliance informs voters.

These findings point to useful policy innovations for states and cities while the federal government is unable or unwilling to regulate, such as “disclosure disclaimers” and campaign finance audits. I explain implications for the courts, campaigns, and policymakers, as well as limitations on the argument.

Reducing Unequal Representation: The Impact of Labor Unions on Legislative Responsiveness in the U.S. Congress

Source: Michael Becher and Daniel Stegmueller, Perspectives on Politics, First View, July 21, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
It has long been recognized that economic inequality may undermine the principle of equal responsiveness that lies at the core of democratic governance. A recent wave of scholarship has highlighted an acute degree of political inequality in contemporary democracies in North America and Europe. In contrast to the view that unequal responsiveness in favor of the affluent is nearly inevitable when income inequality is high, we argue that organized labor can be an effective source of political equality. Focusing on the paradigmatic case of the U.S. House of Representatives, our novel dataset combines income-specific estimates of constituency preferences based on 223,000 survey respondents matched to roll-call votes with a measure of district-level union strength drawn from administrative records. We find that local unions significantly dampen unequal responsiveness to high incomes: a standard deviation increase in union membership increases legislative responsiveness towards the poor by about six to eight percentage points. As a result, in districts with relatively strong unions legislators are about equally responsive to rich and poor Americans. We rule out alternative explanations using flexible controls for policies, institutions, and economic structure, as well as a novel instrumental variable for unionization based on history and geography. We also show that the impact of unions operates via campaign contributions and partisan selection.

The Elephant and the Bird: Republican Candidates’ Use of Strategy and Issue Framing in Twitter During the 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries

Source: Dror Walter, Yotam Ophir, International Journal of Communication, Vol 13, 2019

From the abstract:
Studies have demonstrated an increase in the use of strategy framing in coverage of political campaigns over the years, and during campaign cycles. Despite increases in politicians’ and voters’ use of social media, very little is known about the use of framing in e-campaigns. This study examines Republican presidential candidates’ Twitter activity during the 2016 primaries (more than 22,000 tweets). We find that only two candidates, Donald Trump, and John Kasich, have followed the news media tendency to emphasize strategy over issues. Also, candidates dedicated more than a third of their Twitter activity to updating followers on events and the campaign. Using time-series analysis, we found that the use of framing was dynamic over time, with issue framing increasing around debates and strategy around voting days. This study contributes to our understanding of the use of social media as a complementary and alternative method for direct communication between candidates and their voters.

Related:
In 2016, the Top GOP Candidates Used This Twitter Strategy
Source: Bert Gambini, Futurity, October 29, 2019

Among the Republican hopefuls in the 2016 presidential primaries, the last two standing—Donald Trump and John Kasich—employed the same Twitter strategy, research finds.

Why the Right Hates Voting Rights: An Interview With Ari Berman

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, September 6, 2019

Conservatives in the United States know they can’t win on a level playing field — so they’ve started rigging the electoral rules in their favor, democracy be damned.

When the Republican Party recaptured the House in the 2010 midterm elections, it marked not only the end of a relatively brief period of Democratic control but also the beginning of a wider offensive against voting rights that has been underway ever since. By capturing key statehouses in 2010 and in the years that followed, Republicans have been increasingly able to tilt the electoral process in their favor — a strategy that has profoundly affected the results of recent elections and was one of the major backdrops to Donald Trump’s surprise Electoral College victory in 2016.

Jacobin’s Luke Savage sat down with Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman to discuss the history of gerrymandering and voter suppression — and the considerable impact both continue to have on the course of US politics.

Spending at Trump Properties

Source: ProPublica, 2019

2020 cycle
Top three spenders (as of July 31, 2019):
Trump Victory – $449,715
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $287,740
Republican National Committee – $154,873

2018 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $3,442,383
Republican National Committee – $1,391,855
America First Action, Inc. – $415,578

2016 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $9,812,319
Trump Victory – $650,715
Republican National Committee – $16,412

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..