Category Archives: Politics

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Social Media and the Hatch Act

Source: Office of Special Counsel, July 27, 2010

In light of the many questions the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has received concerning Social Media, OSC provides the following guidance on the issue, in the form of frequently asked questions concerning less restricted and further restricted federal employees (see questions one through eleven) as well as federal agencies (see questions twelve through fourteen).

Note: This guidance refers primarily to Facebook and Twitter in the following questions due to the popularity of those sites for social networking, but the advice provided in response to these questions applies equally to all other social media, such as Myspace, Linkedin, etc.

Winner-Take-All Politics: Public Policy, Political Organization, and the Precipitous Rise of Top Incomes in the United States

Source: Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Politics & Society, Vol. 38 no. 2, June 2010

The dramatic rise in inequality in the United States over the past generation has occasioned considerable attention from economists, but strikingly little from students of American politics. This has started to change: in recent years, a small but growing body of political science research on rising inequality has challenged standard economic accounts that emphasize apolitical processes of economic change. For all the sophistication of this new scholarship, however, it too fails to provide a compelling account of the political sources and effects of rising inequality. In particular, these studies share with dominant economic accounts three weaknesses: (1) they downplay the distinctive feature of American inequality -namely, the extreme concentration of income gains at the top of the economic ladder; (2) they miss the profound role of government policy in creating this “winner-take-all” pattern; and (3) they give little attention or weight to the dramatic long-term transformation of the organizational landscape of American politics that lies behind these changes in policy. These weaknesses are interrelated, stemming ultimately from a conception of politics that emphasizes the sway (or lack thereof) of the “median voter” in electoral politics, rather than the influence of organized interests in the process of policy making. A perspective centered on organizational and policy change -one that identifies the major policy shifts that have bolstered the economic standing of those at the top and then links those shifts to concrete organizational efforts by resourceful private interests -fares much better at explaining why the American political economy has become distinctively winner-take-all.

When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions

Source: Brendan Nyhan, Jason Reifler, Journal of Political Behavior, June 2010

From the abstract:
An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.
In Politics, Sometimes The Facts Don’t Matter
Source: NPR, Talk of the Nation, July 13, 2010

Federalism During the Obama Administration

Source: Thomas L. Gais, Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, Presented at 27th Annual Conference of the National Federation of Municipal Analysts, May 7, 2010

The federal government during the Obama Administration has assertively sought to influence state policies, perhaps more so than any time since the 1960s. Sometimes it offers states more funding and flexibility; sometimes it seeks to constrain, guide, or direct state policy and budget decisions — generally in service of its views of what domestic policies ought to be.

Labor, the Left and Progressives in the Obama Era

Source: Georgetown University, April 6, 2010

Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, in association with Dissent, The Nation, and The American Prospect, hosted a forum about national politics, progressives and the labor movement. Panelists talked about how the labor movement can grow and engage with a progressive movement and building of a broader progressive movement. This program contains strong language that may not be appropriate for all viewers.
Watch the video.

America in Midst of Civic Foreclosure

Source: PA Times, Vol. 32 no. 9, October 2009
(subscription required)

As­ economic­ distress continues­ through­ the­ summer­ and­ into­ the fall,­ Americans­ are­ suffering­ from a­ “civic foreclosure”­ that ­is­ limiting­ the­ range­ and depth­ of­ their­ civic­ engagement,­ according to­ a new­ study­ by­ National­ Conference­ on Citizenship­ (NCoC).­ The­ annual­ “America’s Civic­ Health Index,” ­based­ on­ survey­ data collected­ in­ May­ 2009,­ is­ a­ look­ at­ the­ state of­ civic­ engagement­ in America­ that­ reflects the­ impact­ of­ the­ economic­ crisis.

Political Orientations and Behavior of Public Employees: A Cross-National Comparison

Source: Jason L. Jensen, Paul E. Sum, and David T. Flynn, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 19, Issue 4, October 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using data from 18 countries, we study the attitudes, behavior, and characteristics of government employees. Researchers have found mixed support when attempting to determine whether public employees differ from the general population, and they have speculated about the ramifications of any differences, including growth in the size of government and budget maximization. We assess whether government employees are comparatively more left leaning in their political ideology, vote at a higher rate, and vote for candidates on the left. In many countries, we find support for the prediction that public employees are more left leaning but we find much less support for the two behavioral predictions related to voting.

Constraining Public Employee Speech: Government’s Control of Its Workers’ Speech to Protect Its Own Expression

Source: Helen Norton, Duke Law Journal, Volume 59 Number 1, October 2009

This Article identifies a key doctrinal shift in courts’ treatment of public employees’ First Amendment claims–a shift that imperils the public’s interest in transparent government as well as the free speech rights of more than twenty million government workers. In the past, courts interpreted the First Amendment to permit governmental discipline of public employee speech on matters of public interest only when such speech undermined the government employer’s interest in efficiently providing public services. In contrast, courts now increasingly focus on–and defer to–government’s claim to control its workers’ expression to protect its own speech.

How Leadership PAC Money Is Spent

Source: Mike Webb, ProPublica, September 25, 2009

Tonight, in a story we did with the Brian Ross Investigative Unit for ABC News’ World News With Charles Gibson, the network is looking at how members of Congress actually use money from their Leadership PACs. (See their slideshow.) An in-depth version of this story will come this weekend. Leadership Political Action Committees are the second-largest source of political money for sitting members of Congress. Check out our database to see exactly what your representatives are spending their Leadership PAC money on. And be sure to come back this weekend to read the full story.