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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Interest Group Tactics: Scorecards and Legislative Language

h/t Matt Grossmann:

Emily J. Charnock has an article at Studies in American Political Development titled "More Than a Score: Interest Group Ratings and Polarized Politics."  The abstract:
This article examines the origins and influence of ideological index scores—where liberal and conservative interest groups rate legislator performance on selected roll call votes. Two such groups founded in the mid-twentieth century—the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the Americans for Constitutional Action (ACA)—were crucial to the development of this type of metric, transforming roll call analysis from detailed tabular scorecards into streamlined percentage scores showing how often a lawmaker voted “right.” ADA and ACA scores have been heavily utilized in political science as proxies for liberalism and conservatism and used to demonstrate the growing polarization of the congressional parties. Archival evidence suggests, however, that those scores were intended to create the very phenomenon they have been used to measure. They were deeply political rather than objective metrics, which the ADA and ACA used to guide their electoral activities in accordance with an increasingly partisan strategic plan. Each group directed campaign resources toward incumbent lawmakers they rated highly, but they did so unevenly—with the ADA favoring liberal Democrats over Republicans and the ACA showing a preference for conservative Republicans over time. By rewarding favored lawmakers in their preferred party, and using scores to highlight and discourage ideological outliers, they hoped to reshape the parties along more distinct and divided ideological lines—to create more “responsible” parties, as prominent political scientists then desired.
Amy Melissa McKay has an article at Political Research Quarterly titled "Fundraising for Favors? Linking Lobbyist-Hosted Fundraisers to Legislative Benefits."  The abstract:
 Do legislators and lobbyists trade favors? This study uses uncommon data sources and plagiarism software to detect a rarely observed relationship between interest group lobbyists and sitting Members of Congress. Comparison of letters to a Senate committee written by lobby groups to legislative amendments introduced by committee members reveals similar and even identical language, providing compelling evidence that groups persuaded legislators to introduce amendments valued by the group. Moreover, the analysis suggests that these language matches are more likely when the requesting lobby group hosts a fundraising event for the senator. The results hold while controlling for ideological agreement between the senator and the group, the group’s campaign contributions to the senator, and the group’s lobbying expenditures, annual revenue, and home-state connections
From the article:
There are other plausible explanations of fundraising behavior that do not imply a suspect link to legislative effort. Hosting fundraisers may help interest groups achieve solidary goals of group maintenance (Gray and Lowery 2000; Olson 1965; Salisbury 1969). Fundraisers also give attending lobbyists opportunities to keep abreast of what other lobbyists are doing and working on, as well as to get face time with the politician and the politician’s staff—a benefit that may increase the lobbyist’s subsequent access to legislative offices. For these reasons and others, I stop short of arguing that fundraising lobbyists are buying legislation. Still, the analysis suggests that fundraising activity by lobbyists does seem to encourage legislators to perform narrow legislative favors for the lobbyists that are helpful to them.