The Revolving Door

Timothy LaPira (JMU) and I are exploring the size and scope of Washington’s revolving door, and its impact on interest representation.  Our ongoing work has been mentioned in The HillThe New York TimesPolitico Influence, and National Journal.  We recently authored a guest post on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, published an article in Interest Groups & Advocacy, and are working on a book that is under contract with the University Press of Kansas.  

Dissertation/AgendaSim

Model

My dissertation is a study of contagion and bandwagon effects in policymaking.  I argue that a process of ‘issue contagion’ explains rapid changes in the attention of policy elites as they struggle to attend to an array of pressing issues and problems.  This contagion process develops as policy elites mimic the behavior of their peers due to inherent cognitive limits and strong incentives to closely monitor the political environment.  To examine the the conditions under which issue contagion develops, I build a computational model of agenda-setting behavior (AgendaSim).  I then test the empirical implications of the model by applying it to real-world datasets: from the public statements and press releases of members of Congress to the disclosed lobbying activity of organized interests.  With implications for how scholars interpret large changes in public policy, the core contribution of my project is that patterns in attention to policy issues are a function of a contagion process generated by imitation and cue-taking among elites.

Lobbying Networks

2008baseIn a forthcoming article with Frank Baumgartner and Timothy LaPira, we utilize 1.5 million LDA issue reports to study the structure and dynamics of lobbying activity.  We find a core-periphery structure and explore these ‘two worlds of lobbying.’

Interest Groups

Darren Halpin (ANU) and I have been working on a series of papers studying interest group behavior in the US, UK, and Australia. We originally focused on interest groups participating in Scottish executive consultations and examined the breadth of their policy activities, how they respond to competition and mortality anxiety, and the mobilization of infrequent actors.  We are now working on research that examines how interest groups in the US and Australia use media releases to signal policy preferences to those in government.

Public Policy

My research on the policy process includes two coauthored articles in Policy Studies Journal.  The first develops the concept of a ‘policy bubble‘ to define how government can overinvest in a particular policy instrument beyond the value of the policy solution.  The second is a methodological piece that offers a new way to measure diversity in attention to policy issues over time.  I have also coauthored book chapters that update ideas about bounded rationality in public policy decision-making and discuss origins of the concept.  In an ongoing project, my coauthors and I examine how policymakers struggle to make choices during times of uncertainty (e.g. during crises or when new issues emerge on the government agenda).

Policy Agendas Project

I previously managed the Policy Agendas Project and now contribute to the project as a Graduate Fellow.  We provide 12 datasets on the national policy agenda, which include over 260,000 observations categorized by issue area.