Congressional Investigations and the Electoral Connection

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Authors Kenneth Lowande, Justin Peck
Paper Category
Paper Abstract We demonstrate that a direct “electoral connection” with voters motivates members of Congress to more vigorously investigate the executive branch during divided government. Our strategy for estimating the effect of the electoral connection is to leverage the enactment of 17th Amendment—which influenced the electoral mechanism for senators but not for members of the House of Representatives. This plausibly exogenous institutional variation allows us to isolate the effect of the electoral connection from other possible historical influences—such as the growth of the administrative state or the rise of political progressivism. We find that the 17th Amendment dramatically increased the Senate’s propensity to investigate during divided party control. Importantly, we also find little evidence of such an increase in the House. Our findings support the contemporary claim that congressional investigations are political tool motivated by the desire to discredit the opposition and reap individual electoral gains. (JEL D72, D73, D79)
Date of publication 2016
Code Programming Language R

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