Agency Breadth and Political Influence

Zachary Breig (University of Queensland)
Mitch Downey (Stockholm IIES)

Abstract : We study, theoretically and empirically, legislative influence over executive agencies, focusing on the breadth of agency responsibilities. We model interest groups, the legislature, and agencies. Politicians exert costly effort to influence agencies in exchange for interest groups’ campaign contributions. Effort, however, can only be imperfectly targeted. When effort is spent on behalf of one group, some spills over to benefit other interest groups. This creates externalities of influence that are larger in broad agencies, deterring legislative influence. Empirically, we develop a novel lobbying-based measure of breadth and combine it with survey data on influence in 70 US federal agencies. Broad agencies report less influence, and additional results suggest this is causal. These results are important for understanding how to insulate divisive tasks from political influence.

Political Budget Cycle and Government Payments

Marco Buso (University of Padova)
Luciano Greco (University of Padova)
Luigi Moretti (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Abstract : The literature on political budget cycles points out that taxes and public deficits are adjusted to alternate fiscal expansions and consolidations according to the electoral cycle. The empirical evidence about public expenditure is controversial. In this paper, we provide an explanation for this puzzle that exploits the difference between expenditure commitments and payments, which characterizes government financial accounting. Relying on data from Italian municipal governments for the period 2000-2014, we find a political cycle in government payments. To detect the drivers of such cycle, we develop a new theory of political behavior featuring a trade-off between career concern and rent-seeking under uncertain politician’s productivity. The payment cycle allows the politician to privately refine his expectation about own productivity, thus relaxing the trade-off between rent-extraction and re-election probability. For this reason, term limits reduce the size of the payment cycle. Such theoretical predictions are confirmed by alternative empirical treatments which help us to exclude identification problems.

The Political Economy of Corporate Taxation

Benjamin G. Ogden (Texas A&M University)
Korok Ray (Texas A&M University)

Abstract : TBA

Electoral Incentives for Public Good Provision: Evidence from Three Linked Field Experiments in Liberia

Wayne Sandholtz (UC San Diego)
Mauricio Romero (ITAM)
Justin Sandefur (Center for Global Development)

Abstract : Under some theories of democracy, voters hold politicians accountable for providing growth-inducing public goods which are undersupplied by the market, such as education. But there is very little empirical evidence on whether and when there are direct electoral rewards for public good provision -- and the persistence of poor-quality public goods in many democracies implies the existence of nontrivial obstacles to this kind of accountability. We provide the first experimental measure of the impact of improved schools on electoral outcomes, leveraging the geographically randomized pilot of a public-private school partnership in Liberia. The policy caused an increase in voter registration and vote share for incumbent representatives, especially those from the ruling party. Electoral gains for other ruling-party candidates were concentrated in places where test score gains were largest. We explore incomplete information as an obstacle to accountability, using two additional experiments. In a candidate survey, randomly selected political candidates were given information about the policy's impact. In a household survey, randomly selected respondents were provided with information about candidates' positions on the policy. We explore the conditions in which information appears to be a binding constraint.