Category Archives: Elected Officials

What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators

Source: Labinot Demaj, Public Administration Review, Volume 77 Issue 3, May/June 2017
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From the abstract:
Studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions have produced contradictory findings. This article offers a framework of the parliamentary context that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. The framework suggests that the impact on politicians’ allocations will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult trade-off for the decision maker, and whether information falls into a receptive partisan mind. The experimental study uses 57 actual legislators. The results show that the introduction of performance information into legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. This difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. More informed decisions, however, might make compromise among legislators more difficult because individual positions will become more polarized.
Previous version:
What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators
Source: Labinot Demaj, University of St. Gallen, Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2015-04, September 9, 2014

From the abstract:
Existing studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions are limited and have produced contradictory findings. This paper argues that most previous work has somewhat problematically focused on self-reported use of performance information rather than on the legislative context into which performance information is introduced. This study offers a framework that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. I argue that the impact will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult value tradeoff for the decision-maker, and whether the implications of the performance information fall into a receptive partisan mind. This paper studies these aspects by manipulating the first two of these factors in an experimental setting involving budgetary decision-making by 57 actual legislators. The control groups consist of 65 undergraduate students. The results show that the introduction of performance information into the legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. I argue that this difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. This paper concludes that more informed decisions based on good performance budgets might also create a situation in which it is more difficult for legislators to compromise because individual positions become more polarized.

Congress’ Browsing Habits

Source: Speak Together, 2017

Find out what the government is doing on your site

Get real time analytics on Congress, White House, and FCC visits to your site, while taking in part in one of the largest movements for internet privacy in the history of the Web.
Related:
How to Track What Congress Is Doing on the Internet
Source: Louise Matsakis, Motherboard, June 12, 2017

There’s now a way to track what government employees, including elected officials, are doing online during working hours. A new plugin created by a software engineer in North Carolina lets website administrators monitor when someone accesses their site from an IP address associated with the federal government. It was created in part to protest a piece of legislation the president signed earlier this year. In April, President Trump signed a measure allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to sell sensitive information about your online habits without needing your consent, rolling back Obama-era regulations intended to stop that very thing from happening…..

These Protesters Are Hitting Trump Where It Actually Hurts

Source: Mattea Kramer, The Nation, May 23, 2017

Could the president be influenced by threats to his profit margin? ….

…. Since Donald Trump’s election in November, and especially since his January inauguration, hundreds of small and not-so-small organizations have sprung up to oppose the president. They joined the ranks of established left-leaning and liberal groups already revving up their engines to fight the administration. Among all the ways you can now voice your dissent, though, there’s one tactic that this president will surely understand: economic resistance aimed at his own businesses and those of his children. He may not be swayed by protesters filling the streets, but he does speak the language of money. Through a host of tactics—including boycotting stores that carry Trump products, punishing corporations and advertisers that underwrite the administration’s agenda, and disrupting business-as-usual at Trump companies—protesters are using the power of the purse to demonstrate their opposition and have planned a day of resistance against his brand on June 14th.

Such economic dissent may prove to be an especially apt path of resistance, especially for the millions of Americans who reside in blue states and have struggled with a sense of powerlessness following the election. After all, it’s not immediately obvious how to take effective political action in the usual American way when your legislators already agree with you. But what blue-state dwellers lack in political sway they make up for in economic clout, since blue states have, on average, greater household incomes and more purchasing power than their red-state compatriots. The impact of coordinated blue-state boycotts could be enormous. That’s why Grab Your Wallet, along with Color of Change, a racial-justice group, and numerous other organizations are encouraging individuals to see their purchasing power as political muscle. ….

…. At first glance, Grab Your Wallet is a modest website: a Google spreadsheet that lists about 50 companies to boycott. Included are the department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord & Taylor, as well as online retailers like Overstock.com, Zappos, and Amazon, all of which sell some type of Trump swag. (The precise number of companies listed continues to decline, as retailers dump the Trump brand.) The site gets an impressive two million unique visitors every month, and when I spoke with Coulter, she told me that 22 retailers had dropped Trump products since the start of the boycott. She believes that this is just the beginning…..

The Delegate Paradox: Why Polarized Politicians Can Represent Citizens Best

Source: Douglas Ahler, David E. Broockman, Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 17-30, April 24, 2017

From the abstract:
Many advocate political reforms intended to resolve apparent disjunctures between politicians’ ideologically polarized policy positions and citizens’ less-polarized policy preferences. We show these apparent disjunctures can arise even when politicians represent their constituencies well, and that resolving them would likely degrade representation. These counterintuitive results arise from a paradox whereby polarized politicians can best represent constituencies comprised of citizens with idiosyncratic preferences. We document this paradox among U.S. House Members, often criticized for excessive polarization. We show that if House Members represented their constituencies’ preferences as closely as possible, they would still appear polarized. Moreover, current Members nearly always represent their constituencies better than counterfactual less-polarized Members. A series of experiments confirms that even “moderate” citizens often prefer ostensibly polarized representatives to many less-polarized alternatives.

Fifty Shades of Green: High Finance, Political Money, and the U.S. Congress

Source: Thomas Ferguson, Jie Chen, Paul Jorgensen, Roosevelt Institute, May 2017

From the summary:
Social scientists have traditionally struggled to identify clear links between political spending and congressional voting, and many journalists have embraced their skepticism. A giant stumbling block has been the challenge of measuring the labyrinthine ways money flows from investors, firms, and industries to particular candidates. Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Chen directly tackle that classic problem in this paper. Constructing new data sets that capture much larger swaths of political spending, they show direct links between political contributions to individual members of Congress and key floor votes.

Their study builds on two earlier studies published by the Roosevelt Institute. Gerald Epstein and Juan Antonio Montecino’s “Overcharged: The High Cost of High Finance” assesses the staggering costs imposed on the U.S. economy by deregulated, out-of-control finance. Mark Cooper’s “Overcharged and Underserved” analyzes the charges telecommunications oligopolies levy on Americans and their disastrous impacts on services and economic growth.

The message of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Chen’s study is simple: Money influences key congressional floor votes on both finance and telecommunication issues. Americans may not have the “best Congress money can buy”—after all, as they note, their results could be even bleaker—but there is no point in pretending that what appears to be the voice of the people is really often the sound of money talking.

A Hundred Days of Trump

Source: David Remnick, New Yorker, May 1, 2017

With his nativist and purely transactional view of politics, he threatens to be democracy’s most reckless caretaker.

Related:
After 100 Days of Trump, America’s Gotten Corruption Fatigue
Source: Bridgette Dunlap, Rolling Stone, April 29, 2017

Trump is enriching himself as president – but what’s worse is that it’s starting to seem normal