New Research – When House Members Don’t Like Pork

Pam Clouser McCann and I have published a paper in Legislative Studies Quarterly that examines the influence of decentralized administration through grant-in-aid programs on congressional role call voting.  The last working paper version can be accessed on SSRN and the abstract appears below.

Congress packages pork-barrel spending in complicated proposals that belie theories of distributive politics. We theorize that roll-call voting on such bills depends on grant programs’ administrative centralization, party ties with presidents or home-state governors, and differences in geographic representation between chambers. Analyzing votes between 1973-2010 using a within-legislator strategy reveals that House members are less likely to support decentralized spending when they are co-partisans with presidents, while senators support decentralization regardless of such party ties. When House members or senators share affiliation with only governors or with neither chief executive, the likelihood of support rises with decentralization.

Haldane Prize for Shrinking the State Project Paper

My coauthors Andy SinclairHaram Lee, and I are honored and delighted to have won the 2016 Haldane Prize for the best article published in Public Administration in 2015. The article selected is entitled “Media Attention and the Demise of Agency Independence: Evidence from a Mass Administrative Reorganization in Britain” and is an output of the Shrinking the State project funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

New Research – Agency Termination and Democratic Accountability

The third paper from my pillar of the Shrinking the State project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, has now been accepted for publication. Democratic Accountability and the Politics of Mass Administrative Reorganization written with my NYU Wagner colleague Andy Sinclair will appear in the British Journal of Political Science.  Here’s the abstract:

Governments face different incentives when they reorganize many administrative agencies at one time rather than making infrequent, case-by-case changes. Our theory of mass administrative reorganizations posits that their politics is focused on government accountability for policymaking. Viewing mass reorganization as a structured decision, we argue that choices about independence, agency organization, and functional disposition have different impacts on the political costs of administrative policymaking.  Analyzing novel data from a recent British reorganization with sequential logistic statistical models provides substantial support for our claims. Our study challenges the focus on organizational survival in the existing literature. By eschewing more fundamental political questions of democratic accountability, the prevailing approach masks essential politics, and in our data, all influence of conflict due to party and agency policy positions.

Who are the policy workers and what are they doing?

My first paper in a new project on democratic accountability in a world of complex governance has been accepted by Public Performance Management Review.  Some of the ideas in this project were presented in my Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professorship Lecture at New York University Law School.  A fuller exposition of these ideas will appear in a book, currently under contract with Cambridge University Press.

It will appear in a symposium issue following a wonderful session at last year’s meeting of the American Society of Public Administration in Chicago organized by Kaifeng Yang and Mel Dubnick.  Here’s the abstract:

Two critical questions for the study of accountability in contemporary governance can focus attention on the citizen, rather than the official. I begin with the question of whether a citizen can identify a policy worker—that is, the bureaucrat, contractor, or other actor acting in pursuit of a legislated policy goal. I then turn to whether a citizen can evaluate policy work that is done to further a legislated policy goal. Both identification and evaluation prove tricky to assess in a great deal of policy work, leaving accountability an important, but elusive, democratic value. This paper provides a framework for analysts to understand when and why accountability works from a citizen’s perspective and what incentives policy workers and politicians have when it does.


New Research – Media Response to Agency Termination: Out with a whimper?

A second paper from my part of the Economic and Social Research Council funded Shrinking the State project has now been accepted for publication. Media Attention and the Demise of Agency Independence: Evidence from a Mass Administrative Reorganization in Britain written with my NYU Wagner colleague Andy Sinclair and USC Price doctoral student Haram Lee is forthcoming in Public Administration.  This is Haram’s first publication, so we’re very excited about that.  Here’s the abstract:

When administrative agencies are terminated, do they quietly fade from public view? On the one hand, the terminated agencies may have weak issue networks and agency reputations allowing them to lose public salience. On the other hand, strong issue networks and agency reputations may mean that termination increases attention to the agencies, making the government pay the cost of public attention generated by the actors within the issue networks. We assess these competing claims by using a unique dataset from a recent mass reorganization of independent agencies in Britain as well as data capturing media attention to agencies in major national newspapers. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we find that the agencies subject to termination experience reductions in the number of media coverage in major newspapers, disappearing from public view during the post-decision reform period.

The paper is available via SSRN.