At a time when the federal bureaucracy has become the focus of intense scrutiny, understanding the inner-workings and outside influences are more important than ever. Broadly, my research agenda focuses on how the government works, makes decisions, and interacts with the public. I approach these interests through a variety of methods, including gathering government data, qualitative research, and experimental methodology.
Evaluating the Effects of Multiple Opinion Rationales on Supreme Court Legitimacy. (with Chris W. Bonneau, Jarrod Kelly, Kira Pronin, and Shane Redman). 2017. American Politics Research 45(3): 335-365.
Lost in Translation: How Bureaucratic Hierarchies & Networks Limit Presidential Control over Distributive Policymaking in U.S. Federal Agencies
Scholarship on the politics of distribution have uncovered how presidents deliver benefits strategically through federal agencies. While interagency differences are incorporated into the distribution literature, intra-agency hierarchy is not considered. Instead, an assumption of uniform control by the president exists, without considering the impacts of organizational hierarchy and the limitations of presidential influence within individual agencies. As the government has grown, the president faces challenges to oversee agencies that have expanded beyond traditional means of control. This work explores vertical insulation in agencies, while considering the effects of politicization and relationships between appointees and career executives (Resh, 2015), arguing that presidential influence is most potent at the top of the hierarchy, and weakest at the bottom. Presidential preferences are explored using campaign contributions by federal contractors to the president and their influence over contracting awards from offices within agencies. The contracting data represents all contracts awarded by federal agencies from 2001 through 2016. This work aims to show that presidential influence within federal agencies is not uniform, and instead is conditional on organizational hierarchy. Furthermore, this is the first study to apply a hierarchical framework to understand how decisions are made differently within offices in agencies, rather than treating agencies as homogeneous entities. The findings confirm the hypothesis that donations by government contractors yield larger contractors in the highest levels of government, but they do not receive advantages offices deeper in the organizational hierarchy.
The Administrative Foundations of Executive Particularism: How Institutional Arrangements Shape the Allocation of U.S. Federal Grants (with George Krause)
Although elected officials are known to engage in distributive policymaking behavior, administrative agencies play a crucial policymaking role in determining grant funding criteria and awards. We advance a theory of constrained executive particularism which posits that presidents seek to balance policy control with bureaucratic discretion when allocating distributive policymaking authority to administrative agencies. Employing a sample of U.S. federal grants covering 44 agencies from 1984-2008, we find that larger percentage changes in U.S. federal grant allocations to administrative agencies occur when a counterbalance exists between the presidential loyalty of bureaucratic leaders and politicized review of agency policy decisions. In addition, we find that an opposition partisan Congress under divided party government serves as an effective mechanism to undermine this balance in the direction of greater bureaucratic discretion at the expense of presidential control. Both the logic and evidence underscores the complexities associated with executive branch governance in the realm of distributive policymaking that cannot be ascribed merely to presidential power.
Understanding Political-Economic Convergence in the American States (with George Krause)
Studies of political-economic development in the American states propose competing monocausal claims regarding the relationship between partisan control of representative institutions and economic performance. We test these competing causal claims with data on the partisan balance of U.S. state legislatures and real per capita state personal income from 1942−2010. The evidence uncovers a consistent pattern of mutual dependence between partisan competition and economic performance in both emergent states (i.e., American South) and stagnant states (i.e., American Non-South). The American Old South’s dual political-economic emergence since the early 1980s reflects a ‘virtuous cycle’ of rising income growth and partisan balance of state legislatures mutually reinforcing one another. More broadly, the evidence points to a symbiotic view of political-economic performance cycles in the American states that reconciles conflicting theoretical claims regarding the relationship between the concentration of political authority vested in a single political party and economic performance.