Category Archives: Politics

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.

Biased Budget Scoring and Underinvestment

Source: Michael Simkovic, University of Southern California Gould School of Law; University of Southern California – Marshall School of Business, USC CLASS Research Papers Series No. CLASS20-11, Date Written: June 10, 2020

From the abstract:
Empirical studies routinely find evidence that public investments in education, science, and infrastructure have as high or a higher rate of return than private capital invested more broadly, and that such public investments are complementary to and crowd-in private investment. This implies that public borrowing or raising taxes to fund more public investment would increase the rate of economic growth and provide budgetary benefits.

However, when scoring the effects of legislation, the Congressional Budget Office and the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a think tank, use dubious assumptions that systematically put a thumb on the scale in favor of shrinking the government and against NPV-positive public investment. Rather than help correct shortcomings in CBO’s approach, the PWBM often amplifies them, making assumptions that are even less plausible than those of the CBO. PWBM’s errors are not random such that they offset each other, but rather have a single systematic direction — all of the problematic assumptions and methodological problems put a thumb on the scale in favor of low taxes on the ultra-wealthy.

PWBM, like CBO, assumes away the short-term benefits of public investments while treating private investments more favorably, even though many private investments — in particular those relating to development of new technologies — take a long time to produce positive cash flows. The PWBM assumes away the long-term benefits of public investment for reasons that are irrelevant and patently wrong under established principles of valuation. The PWBM elevates the role of arbitrary timing assumptions instead of focusing on lifetime IRR and NPV. The PWBM assumes crowding out of investment, when the empirical evidence is as strong, if not stronger, for crowding in. The PWBM assumes a coming crisis when both financial markets and ratings agencies suggest that this is very unlikely. The PWBM assumes that the United States is overwhelmingly a closed economy with respect to international investment when the evidence suggests that it is overwhelmingly open. The PWBM assumes a shortage of capital, when negative real risk-free interest rates point to a capital glut. The PWBM assumes that only the extremely wealthy can supply sufficient capital, and that changes to taxes and spending that benefit middle- and upper middle-income individuals will not enable these groups to serve instead as suppliers of capital. The PWBM assumes that the wealthy react to higher taxes by saving less, when it is possible that they react by working harder or consuming fewer luxuries.

The many problems with PWBM’s analysis raise serious doubts that the PWBM’s analysis can be used as a guide in selecting policy choices that will increase economic growth or improve the well-being of most U.S. citizens.

Congress’s counter-productive approach to scoring legislation should be revised to more accurately reflect the well-established benefits of public investment and the ambiguous effects of taxes or public borrowing.

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.

Pathways to Modes of Movement Participation: Micromobilization in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement

Source: Larry W Isaac, Jonathan S Coley, Daniel B Cornfield, Dennis C Dickerson, Social Forces, Volume 99, Issue 1, September 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We employ a unique sample of participants in the early 1960s Nashville civil rights movement to examine within-movement micromobilization processes. Rather than assuming movement micromobilization and participation is internally homogeneous, we extend the literature by identifying distinct types of pathways (entry and preparation) and distinct types (or modes) of movement participation. Pathways into the Nashville movement are largely structured a priori by race, by several distinct points of entry (politically pulled, directly recruited, or professionally pushed), and by prior experience or training in nonviolent direct action. Participation falls into a distinct division of movement labor characterized by several major modes of participation—core cadre, soldiers, and supporters. We demonstrate that pathways and modes of participation are systematically linked and that qualitatively distinct pathways contribute to understanding qualitative modes of movement participation. Specifically, all core cadre members were pulled into activism, soldiers were either pulled or recruited, and supporters were pulled, recruited, or pushed. Highly organized, disciplined, and intense workshop training proved to be integral in becoming a member of the core cadre but not for soldier or supporter roles. We conclude that social movement studies would do well to pay more attention to variability in structured pathways to, preparation for, and qualitative dimensions of movement participation. These dimensions are critical to further understanding the way movements and their participants move and add insights regarding an important chapter in the southern civil rights movement. The implications of our findings extend to modes of movement activism more generally.

Labor Unions and White Democratic Partisanship

Source: David Macdonald, Political Behavior, Early View, Published: June 25, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The Democratic Party’s declining support among white voters is a defining feature of contemporary American politics. Extant research has emphasized factors such as elite polarization and demographic change but has overlooked another important trend, the decades-long decline of labor union membership. This oversight is surprising, given organized labor’s long ties to the Democratic Party. I argue that the concurrent decline of union membership and white support for the Democratic Party is not coincidental, but that labor union affiliation is an important determinant of whites’ partisan allegiances. I test this using several decades of cross-sectional and panel data. I show that union-affiliated whites are more likely to identify as Democrats, a substantively significant relationship that does not appear to be driven by self-selection. Overall, these findings underscore the political consequences of union decline and help us to better understand the drivers of declining white support for the Democratic Party.

To the Victor Goes the Spoils: How the 2020 Presidential Election Could Reshape Labor and Employment Law

Source: Scott A. Budow, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 46, No. 2, Autumn 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The 2020 presidential election has the potential to significantly upend labor and employment law. If there is a change in administration, employers should expect a sharp departure from rules issued over the past four years, particularly with respect to overtime, joint employment, and independent contractors. Employers may additionally expect renewed scrutiny of non-compete agreements. These changes may redefine the relationship between employers and workers in vast segments of the economy.

Universal vote-by-mail has no impact on partisan turnout or vote share

Source: Daniel M. Thompson, Jennifer A. Wu, Jesse Yoder, and Andrew B. Hall, PNAS, first published June 9, 2020
From the abstract:
In response to COVID-19, many scholars and policy makers are urging the United States to expand voting-by-mail programs to safeguard the electoral process, but there are concerns that such a policy could favor one party over the other. We estimate the effects of universal vote-by-mail, a policy under which every voter is mailed a ballot in advance of the election, on partisan election outcomes. We find that universal vote-by-mail does not affect either party’s share of turnout or either party’s vote share. These conclusions support the conventional wisdom of election administration experts and contradict many popular claims in the media. Our results imply that the partisan outcomes of vote-by-mail elections closely resemble in-person elections, at least in normal times.

Whiteness and the Emergence of the Republican Party in the Early Twentieth-Century South

Source: Boris Heersink and Jeffery A. Jenkins, Studies in American Political Development, January 6, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In the post-Reconstruction South, two Republican factions vied for control of state party organizations. The Black-and-Tans sought to keep the party inclusive and integrated, while the Lily-Whites worked to turn the GOP into a whites-only party. The Lily-Whites ultimately emerged victorious, as they took over most state parties by the early twentieth century. Yet no comprehensive data exist to measure how the conflict played out in each state. To fill this void, we present original data that track the racial composition of Republican National Convention delegations from the South between 1868 and 1952. We then use these data in a set of statistical analyses to show that, once disfranchising laws were put into place, the “whitening” of the GOP in the South led to a significant increase in the Republican Party’s vote totals in the region. Overall, our results suggest that the Lily-White takeover of the Southern GOP was a necessary step in the Republican Party’s reemergence—and eventual dominance—in the region during the second half of the twentieth century.

The future is female: How the growing political power of women will remake American politics

Source: Michael Hais and Morley Winograd, Brookings Institution, Fixgov blog, February 19, 2020

The most profound change in American politics today and in the years to come will result from a massive movement of women into the Democratic Party….. As far back as the Reagan presidency, there has been a gender gap in American partisanship with women tilting toward the Democratic Party and men toward the GOP. But the overwhelming change in political party demographics since Trump’s victory in 2016 is the culmination of a long-term movement in party identification and voting behavior among women. With the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, what had been a modest gap of variable proportions has turned into a chasm so wide no Republican presidential candidate will be able to cross it for years to come….

Janus-Faced Judging: How the Supreme Court is Radically Weakening Stare Decisis

Source: Michael Gentithes, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, January 16, 2020

From the abstract:
Drastic changes in Supreme Court doctrine require citizens to reorder their affairs rapidly and undermine trust in the judiciary. Stare decisis has traditionally limited the pace of such change on the Court, acting as a bulwark to wholesale jurisprudential reversals by the Justices. Yet in recent years, the stare decisis doctrine itself has come under threat.

With little public or scholarly notice, the Supreme Court has radically weakened stare decisis. The Court has long suggested that a precedent, regardless of the quality of its reasoning, should stand unless there is some special, practical justification to overrule it. But in several recent decisions, the Court has suggested that “poor reasoning” in a prior decision both triggers stare decisis analysis and justifies overruling cases. This presents a grave threat to legal stability. Justices can always find reasoning they believe is “poor” in prior decisions. Stare decisis under this formulation provides little restraint against changing course. It also opens the door to “wave theories” of stare decisis, whereby new Justices seeking rapid change can claim fidelity to a weak version of stare decisis early in their careers, only to suggest a stronger version later to protect their own decisions.

This weakened version of stare decisis has deep analytical flaws that would allow perpetual changes to legal doctrine based simply on the current Justices’ policy preferences. The Court must not accept the alarming effects such a weak version of stare decisis would have on legal stability, consistency, and judicial legitimacy.