Accountability Behind Closed Doors? Legislator Power and Voting Procedures

Michele Butto (Independent Researcher)
Carlos Pereira (Michigan State University and Getulio Vargas Found)
Matthew Taylor (University of São Paulo)

Abstract: Accountability is important as a means of punishing wrongdoers, improving public confidence in the political system, and deterring potential lawbreakers. But to what extent is the likelihood of accountability an outcome of group interactions and institutional rules? Is the likelihood of accountability within a legislature contingent on the power of legislators or on the publicity given to scandal? Do voting rules that encourage secrecy help to compensate for power differences between legislators or instead lead to backroom dealings that hurt accountability? The paper proceeds in three parts. In the first, we present a basic game theoretic model of congressional efforts to punish dirty peers in a prototypical lower house of a bicameral Congress. In the second, we test some of our basic findings using data from recent scandals and subsequent efforts to ensure accountability in the Brazilian lower house of Congress, the Câmara dos Deputados. In the third, we use an agent-based model to explore some of the theoretical implications of these empirical findings for the smooth functioning of accountability processes in Brazil and beyond.

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