MontgomeryNyhanForthcoming - The Effects of Congressional...

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The Effects of Congressional Staff Networks in the U.S. House of Representatives Jacob M. Montgomery Assistant Professor Dept. of Political Science Washington University in St. Louis [email protected] Brendan Nyhan Professor Dept. of Government Dartmouth College [email protected] Forthcoming, Journal of Politics ABSTRACT Standard accounts of legislative behavior typically neglect the activities of professional staff, who are treated as extensions of the elected officials they serve. However, staff appear to have substantial independent effects on observed levels of legislator produc- tivity and policy preferences. In this paper, we use a novel dataset of comprehensive longitudinal employment records from the U.S. House of Representatives to estimate the effects of Congressional staff on legislative behavior. Specifically, results from a series of heteroskedastic Bayesian spatial autoregressive models indicate that mem- bers of Congress who exchange important staff members across congresses are more similar in their legislative effectiveness and voting patterns than we would otherwise expect. These findings suggest that scholars should reconsider the role of staff in the legislative process. Support for this research was provided by the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis. Supplementary material for this article is available in the appendix in the online edition. Replication files are available in the JOP Data Archive on Dataverse ( ). Keywords: congressional staff, legislative staff, personal staff, social networks, staff ties
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1. INTRODUCTION Research on legislative behavior typically ignores the role of staff. For instance, scholarship on the U.S. Congress has typically considered legislators as individuals (e.g., Mayhew 1974) or as members of parties (e.g., Aldrich 2011), not as managers of small organizations (Salisbury and Shepsle 1981b). Staff are treated as proxies for the legislators whom they serve; agency loss due to delegation and variation in staff effectiveness are thus implicitly assumed to be minimal. While treating legislators as individuals is a useful simplifying assumption, it ignores the po- tentially significant effects of staff on legislative behavior. The demands of the legislative process outstrip the time or expertise of even the most capable elected official. As a result, legislators necessarily depend on staff advice when they cast votes on the floor and in committee and rely on aides to help construct, negotiate, and pass legislation on their behalf. 1 This dependence on staff creates the potential for substantial agency loss in voting (e.g., Malbin 1980; Kingdon 1989) and staff-induced variation in members’ legislative effectiveness (e.g., DeGregorio 1995; Whiteman 1995; Leal and Hess 2004).
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  • Spring '14
  • Monogan
  • The Land, United States Congress

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