Category Archives: Elected Officials

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

Source: Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Perspectives on Politics (forthcoming), March 7, 2014

Who governs? Who really rules? To what extent is the broad body of U.S. citizens sovereign, semi-sovereign, or largely powerless? These questions have animated much important work in the study of American politics. … The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. … In what follows, we briefly review the four theoretical traditions that form the framework for our analyses and highlight some of the most prominent empirical research associated with each. We then describe our data and measures and present our results. We conclude by discussing the implications of our work for understanding American democracy and by identifying some of the directions for future research that our findings suggest…

More Than Corruption Threatens the Integrity of Our Democracy

Source: Adam Lioz, American Prospect, March 31, 2014

The sad tale of how the Supreme Court’s approach to money in politics helped create the Inequality Era. …

…This is the story of how the Court’s fundamentally misguided approach to money in politics has helped create a vicious cycle, ultimately leading us into a new Inequality Era in which the income gap expands endlessly and the size of a citizen’s wallet determines the strength of her voice—reinforcing trends that if left unchecked will spin us towards plutocracy. And, it’s the story of how—while at first glance tangential—a new money in politics jurisprudence is perhaps our best hope for working families to get a fair shot at economic security….

Congressional Officials Grant Access Due To Campaign Contributions: A Randomized Field Experiment

Source: Joshua L. Kalla – Yale and David E. Broockman – University of California, Berkeley, 2014

Concern that lawmakers grant preferential treatment to individuals because they have contributed to political campaigns has long occupied jurists, scholars, and the public. However, the effect s of campaign contributions on legislators’ behavior have proven notoriously difficult to assess. We report the first randomized field experiment on the topic. In the experiment, a political organization attempted to schedule meetings between 191 Members of Congress and their constituents who had contributed to political campaigns. However, the organization randomly assigned whether it informed legislators’ offices that individuals who would attend the meetings were contributors. Congressional offices made considerably more senior officials available for meetings when offices were informed the attendees were donors, with senior officials attending such meetings more than three times as often. Influential policymakers thus appear to make themselves much more accessible to individuals because they have contributed to campaigns, even in the absence of quid pro quo arrangements. These findings have significant implications for ongoing legal and legislative de bates. The hypothesis that individuals can command greater attention from influential policymakers by contributing to campaigns has been among the most contested explanations for how financial resources translate into political power. The simple but revealing experiment presented here elevates this hypothesis from extensively contested to scientifically supported.

Why Teachers Unions Make Such Useful Scapegoats

Source: Rebecca Kolins Givan, New Labor Forum, Vol. 23 no. 1, Winter 2014
(subscription required)

In the last several election cycles, it has become de rigueur for right-wing candidates to express their anger at teachers and their unions, blaming them for any and all ills of public education, and characterizing them as resistant to change. These attacks have metastasized: formerly the rhetoric of conservatives who one might expect to hate unions, “taking on” teachers unions has become a popular activity for a number of prominent Democrats. At a time when education reform and health care reform are at the center of our national policy agenda, it is curious that there is so much blame and animosity focused on teachers unions, while nursing and other health care unions continue their work relatively unmolested by mainstream politicians. …

Super PAC Contributions, Corruption, and the Proxy War Over Coordination

Source: Richard L. Hasen, University of California, Irvine School of Law, Research Paper No. 2014-11, January 22, 2014

From the abstract:
This essay, written for a Duke Journal of Constitutional law and Public Policy symposium, considers the constitutionality of limiting contributions to “Super PACs” and other groups which make independent expenditures in candidate elections. It begins by demonstrating that the same four interests which may justify limiting multi-million dollar contributions to candidates — the anti-bribery interest, the anti-undue influence interest, the equality interest, and the public confidence interest — apply roughly equally to the interests justifying limiting multi-million dollar contributions to Super PACs. It then demonstrates that thanks to the Supreme Court’s crabbed definition of “corruption” in its Citizens United decision, contribution limits imposed on Super PACs appear unconstitutional despite the parallel interests justifying limiting contributions to candidates and outside groups. The Essay then considers whether treating Super PACs which are reliable surrogates for a candidate’s campaign as “coordinated” with a candidate would be an acceptable means of limiting contributions to Super PACs (on grounds that coordinated spending counts as a contribution to a candidate).

The Essay concludes that while the doctrinal move to an expanded definition of coordination to deal with the problem of Super PACs is completely understandable, given the state of current doctrine, the effort would be unlikely to be successful. Courts would be likely to reject a broad coordination rule as infringing on the First Amendment rights of those involved with independent Super PACs. Instead, coordination is the sideshow and the fight over the meaning of corruption is the main event. Reformers must convince the Supreme Court to return to the broader definition of corruption which extends anticorruption to include not just the prevention of bribery but also the prevention of undue influence. That day may not come until the Supreme Court personnel changes, but it is the linchpin for the successful resuscitation of meaningful campaign finance regulation in the United States.

ALEC’s Influence over Lawmaking in State Legislatures

Source: Molly Jackman, Brookings Institution, December 6, 2013

What ALEC does during its closed-door meetings is largely a mystery. This week, ALEC opened its doors to the Washington media – who quickly found the most important doors slamming in their faces. Not only are their meetings private, but so too are their legislative successes and failures. Specifically, we do not know where ALEC’s model bills inspired the introduction and passage of new legislation. In other words, ALEC could have a tremendous influence over lawmaking in the American states, or it could have none at all – we just don’t know.

The goal of this article is to begin to fill the gap in our knowledge. Given the pervasive gridlock in Congress, key legislative change is occurring predominantly in the states. It is, then, all the more important to know who is affecting which bills are introduced in the state legislatures, and which bills pass. Using text analysis, I find where bills based on ALEC model legislation are introduced in the statehouses during the 2011-2012 session and track their progress in the legislative process.

My findings are threefold. First, ALEC model bills are, word-for-word, introduced in our state legislatures at a non-trivial rate. Second, they have a good chance – better than most legislation – of being enacted into law. Finally, the bills that pass are most often linked to controversial social and economic issues. In the end, I argue that this is not good for ALEC, its corporate partners, or for the democratic process. …
See also:
ALEC & State Legislation: Who, What & Where
Source: Molly Jackman, Brookings Institution, blog post, December 12, 2013

…Over the next few months, I look forward to digging deeper into these new data to answer the variety of questions that they raise – some of which have already been brought to my attention through email and social media. Today, I’ll start by addressing one posed by Alexander Furnas of the Sunlight Foundation via Twitter. One of the findings I reported was that 10% of the bills in my sample were sponsored by Democrats – a surprising result given ALEC’s strongly conservative ideology. Mr. Furnas asked me to describe the subjects of those bills.

In total, Democrats introduced 11 bills that resembled ALEC model legislation. Importantly, despite the fact that nearly 10% of ALEC bills introduced in the states passed, none of the bills that Democrats sponsored even made it to a floor vote….

Top U.S. corporations funneled $185 million to political nonprofits/ Company filings shine light on dark money

Source: Michael Beckel, Center for Public Integrity, January 16, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling in 2010 did not, as some warned, unleash a flood of corporate money directly into elections.

But since then, scores of blue-chip U.S. companies quietly bankrolled politically active nonprofits to the tune of at least $185 million in roughly a single year, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation.

Ranking among the biggest donors are energy giant Exelon Corp., health insurer WellPoint Inc. and technology titan Microsoft Corp.

The millions of dollars in corporate expenditures highlighted by the Center for Public Integrity’s research flowed to more than 1,000 politically active nonprofits, from major trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to pro-business alliances such as the Fix the Debt Coalition…..

By the numbers: a 2013 money-in-politics index

Source: Michael Beckelemail, Center for Public Integrity, December 26, 2013

Number of bills passed by Congress this year that have been signed into law: 58

Number of bills passed in 1948, the year President Harry Truman* assailed the “Do-Nothing Congress”: 511

Number of minutes Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spent reading Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” during a 21-hour talk-a-thon in September: 5 ½

Number of hours per day the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recommends embattled freshmen spend fundraising: 4

Amount of campaign cash all members of Congress have reported raising so far in 2013: $403,952,012

Number of seats Republicans need to pick up next year to win control of the U.S. Senate: 6

Number of currently Democratic-controlled Senate seats up in states carried in 2012 by Mitt Romney: 7 …

From Coolidge to Christie: Historical Antecedents of Current Government Officials Dealing with Public Sector Labor Unions

Source: Bryan J. Soukup, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 64 no. 4, Winter 2013
(subscription required)

One might ask: what do Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Scott Walker and Chris Christie have in common? The most obvious answer is that they all are (or were) Republican Governors, but these four men have something much deeper in common. All four have faced-off against powerful public sector labor unions and won. This paper will address and examine the similarities between the anti-union actions taken by these men- Coolidge and the Boston Police Strike of 1919, Reagan and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers (“PATCO”) Strike of 1981, and Walker and Christie’s recent dealings with public employee unions. In the end, the reader will view the work of these political figures as an inspirational passing of the torch between political eras. …