Trans­parency’s
Extreme Demanders

Study after study confirms that the general public is rarely an informed consumer of transparency, but other influential groups and individuals are. We investigate each of these ‘competing pressures’ or ‘extreme demanders’ and discuss how the increased transaprency of the 1970s has benefit them while harming constituents.

Early Draft By James D'Angelo  December, 2017

Trans­parency’s Extreme Demanders

Trans­parency’s
Extreme Demanders

Study after study confirms that the general public is rarely an informed consumer of transparency, but other influential groups and individuals are. We investigate each of these ‘competing pressures’ or ‘extreme demanders’ and discuss how the increased transaprency of the 1970s has benefit them while harming constituents.

By D’Angelo

DRAFT

Seven Deadly Myths

We investigate each of the myths, discuss the reality and make a claim based on the evidence.

Intro

Extreme Demanders

Summary
I’m sympathetic to arguments that excessive process transparency just empowers the lobbying interests and extreme demanders who are most likely to use it.
– Drutman 2017 – New America

Below, In the menu on the left, we list the beneficiaries (extreme demanders) of increased transparency. This list goes against the grain because many scholars falsely assume that the general public (and not special interests) are the exclusive beneficiares of congressional transparency, leading such scholars to conclude that transparency is a powerful democratic agent.

Yet, study after study confirms that the general public is rarely an informed consumer of transparency, but other influential groups and individuals are. This notion that important outsiders also benefit from transparency is supported by a number of scholars like Rieselback who writes: “The more visible any action, the more that competing pressures – from the president, interest groups, and the public generally – come into play.”

Rethinking the Problems of the 1970s
Through the Lens of Demand

This list of extreme demanders (and their increased powers due to transparency) correlates rather well with what other scholars see as the driving influences of the 1970s (i.e. the rise in executive power, partisanship, complexity, and even staffing limitations etc.) In an early critique of our work, Lee Drutman mentioned these ‘externalities’ in an email to us:

You proceed as if the only variable of interest is the level of process transparency, without discussing many other large factors that have changed in the landscape of policymaking in Washington, such as the centralization of leadership power in Congress, the decline of Congressional staff, the growth of the executive branch, the increasing partisan sorting and then polarization, the expansion and complexity of economy, etc.

By investigating each of the extreme demanders of transparency and showing the resulting effect they have on government, we intend to show that each of these ‘externalities’ are well accounted for by the increase in transparency, and are, therefore, internal to our argument that increased congressional transparency is the central driver of things like inequality, increased executive power, partisanship etc.

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Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '1. Lobbyists' : 'Lobbyists'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
Transparency is a useful tool for lobbyists – it enables them to keep better track of their competitors, and to demand equal access for themselves.
– Frum 2014 – The Atlantic (Transparency Trap)

No group of citizens pays more attention to the actions of Congress than corporate lobbyists. Even with salaries as high as $500 per hour, they pack the galleries of the floor sessions and committee hearings, winding in long lines out of the committee doors and into the hallways. And for them it is all about information and pressure. From their mobile phones, they scour online records, open-data sites and make endless informational requests. In the most sensitive markup sessions, particularly those on taxation or energy, lobbyists hang on every word, frequently outnumbering both the members of Congress and the citizen observers combined.

The Hordes of Lobbyists

Lobbyists – or often their young, lower-paid legal assistants – lined up early each morning to get seats at the tax-writing markups. At Ways and Means, before the sessions were closed to the public, some eager committee-watchers would arrive as early as 5:30 A.M. to get at the head of the queue and have a chance for a front-row seat. The line sometimes stretched the entire length of the hallway, a city block long, and then wrapped around the corner. There were so many people that it looked like the committee was giving something away-which, at times, it was.
         The lines were immense each day, no matter what subject the committee was discussing. Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California, devised a formula to explain the phenomenon, which was equally pronounced in both the Senate and the House: “The fewer the number of taxpayers affected, and the more dull and arcane the subject, the longer the line of lobbyists.” Some of those standing in the hall or sitting in the Senate’s wired-for-sound auditorium two floors below billed their clients upward of $400 an hour for their loitering. Others charged as much as $10,000 a month per client.
– Birnbaum 1988 – Showdown at Gucci Gulch
The Evidence
The push for more transparency is often advocated by lobbyists themselves, eager for legal clarity and happy to present themselves as fulfilling a vital role in modern democracies through the information they provide to policymakers.
– Cooper 2017 – Politico

The rise in modern lobbying not only corresponds precisely with the increase in transparency, it also makes strong intuitive sense. Even before the 1970s lobbyists were measured by their ability to count votes and track even tiny pieces of amendments through the legislative process. Indeed, the survival of a lobbyist depends on how well they can show their clients precisely how and where they affected the legislative process each step of the way, a notion expressed here by scholar Lee Drutman.

Lobbyists often struggle to prove their worth to the bean-counters. To make the case for their continued presence, they must be able to point to deliverables, to policies they’ve personally changed in ways that can translate into real bottom-line dollars...Lobbyists have powerful incentives to deliver these particular benefits.
– Drutman 2015 – The Business of America is Lobbying

In this game of bean counting, legislator votes, even the procedural votes, are the essential deliverable. The same applies to the inserting and deleting of clauses or even specific words in amendments during the sensitive markup sessions. Because of this, lobbying relies entirely on the transparency and accessibility to invididual legislator votes and actions (i.e. sponsorships, committee actions, etc). Kingdon (1989) underlines this point, saying the for a lobbyist, the “head count is used to decide whether to mount a fight in the first instance, and if so, gives guidance about where persuasive efforts must be directed.” Indeed, most models of lobbying influence are built around the notion that money in politics is an exchange between contributions, nuanced actions in committees, and votes.

The Telling Ratio

This informational obsession by corporate lobbyists might not be such a severe problem if constituents were equally engaged. But they are not. Constituents (often referred to by scholars as ‘diffuse interests), are notably absent from most committee markups and don’t follow nuanced legislative votes. This tragic imbalance of interest is explained theoretically by James Q. Wilson, but it is also seen clearly in the numbers as well:

Another way to measure the dominance of business is to calculate the annual ratio of lobbying spending by business (corporations, trade associations, and business associations) to diffuse interest and labor union spending over time. In 2012, the ratio was $34 spent by business for every one dollar spent by diffuse interest groups and unions combined. That ratio is up from 22-to-l in 1998.
– Drutman 2015 – The Business of America is Lobbying

Indeed, for every study that suggests that citizens do not monitor Congress, there is an outpouring of evidence describing the swarms of lobbyists attending even the most trivial congressional events. And in report after report, one gets the sense the most important committees are exclusively attended by corporate lobbyists.

Money Doesn’t Buy Access...When it is Free

Ironically, when reformers and pundits talk about how money buys access, they ignore this essential form of access (open committees and transparent votes) that was provided for free with the sunshine provisions of the 1970 Legislative Reorganization Act. Then, in the mid 1980s, when legislators staged a brief backlash against the 1970 Act and the transparency amendments (because many had noticed that the most secret committees were producing better legislation) it was the lobbyists who stepped in fight back – for reinstating transparency.

As some of these lobbyists sensed a slippage of their influence over the bill-writing process, they became the 1980s’ proponents of sunshine in Congress.
– Calmes 1987 -Fading Sunshine Reforms

Not surprisingly, then, in the rare instances when committees close their doors and refuse to publish records or votes, the lobbyists either fight to keep the committees open or pack their bags and go home. The New York Times covered one of these rare cases and interviewed the various departing lobbyists when members Rostenkowski and Packwood shut the doors of both the House and the Senate during the deliberations over the 1986 tax reform.

When informed of the closed-door sessions, one real estate lobbyist claimed “it is demeaning standing here...and having little ability to impact (the legislation).” When asked what he thought of the secret sessions, an insurance lobbyist, on his way home, responded to the idea of congressional secrecy by saying, “it’s equivalent to watching them build your gallows.” And Harold Loggins, an oil lobbyist commented on how bad he felt to be left out, but he was convinced that the secrecy would benefit the people. Finally, Congressional Quarterly reported that the new bills, written in closed sessions “were better when drafted away from lobbyist’s watchful eyes.” And

This notion is chilling. It suggests that lobbyists and not citizens were some of the early diehards of increased congressional transparency. Yet, as shocking as this might sound, it is precisely what we see. Time again we see corporate lobbyists teaming up with transparency advocates to deliver the lobbyists’ lifebood – voting records and unlimited access to markup sessions. Our recent paper, which rethinks the rise of lobbying through the eyes of transparency covers these important dynamics.

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The Result

L obbyists seek out, thrive on, and call for more congressional transparency. When Congress closes their doors, even the most powerful corporate lobbyists go home in disgust.

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '2. The President' : 'The President'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
Imploring Congress to follow his lead, President Obama yesterday lobbied lawmakers to adopt his nearly $450 billion jobs plan, promising it would help workers in the construction industry and rebuild schools in crumbling condition.
– Werner 2011 – President Pressures Congress on Jobs bill

Presidential careers rely on congressional votes. Perhaps no individual, outside of Congress, is more aware and troubled by individual congressional actions than the President. In the 1920s Woodrow Wilson’s famous battles with the legislative branch led him to his fatal illness as he rode around the country in winter campaigning from the back of a train in order to pressure an indifferent Congress. More recently, President Trump has unleashed front page outbursts and overt threats toward the Republican Senators who have voted publicly against him on health care, the debt limit and taxation. With President Obama the pressure was equally intense, and major pieces of legislation often came down to single votes – votes Obama lobbied for hard, with personal calls, dinners and meetings.

As such, the executive branch is one of the most important and well staffed lobbyists in Washington, employing a team of aides whose sole job it is to monitor congressional actions in committees and pressure individual votes. This work is spearheaded by the President’s legislative director, who makes sure to have staffers sitting outside each of the exits of the Senate and House chambers. And when they discover that an individual representative has voted in a way that they don’t like, they corral the member at the door and pressure them to turn around and change their votes.

The Evidence
Executive branch power at the expense of Congress and the Constitution’s checks and balances has mushroomed since World War II...The steady escalation of unchecked presidential power has transformed the Republic whose glory was liberty into an empire whose glory is perpetual war and domination.
– Fein 2012 – Expansion of Presidential Power (New York Times)
If “in the information age, information is power” then most of that power rests with the executive. Because of its vast resources, the executive branch has far greater access to information than do the co-branches of government. In addition, the executive branch has far greater ability and expertise to gather, examine, and cull that information than do the transitory legislative staffs in the Congress. Congress… must continually negotiate with the executive from a position of weakness and dependence.
– Marshall 2008 – Why Presidential Power Expands

Just after midnight, on November 23, 2004 President George Bush was 30,000 feet above the ocean on Airforce 1 talking furiously to a handful of recalcitrant republican members of Congress. What made the conversation particularly frantic, was the fact that the members were in the middle of voting on legislation. In flight, Bush got real time information about the updated and open vote taking place in the House. As the various lights lit up next to each members’ name in the chamber (showing how they had voted), Presidential aides were transmitting that information in real time to the President.

And Bush was furious. It was an election year, Bush desperately wanted to pass Medicaid Part D, one of the biggest government expenditures in history, and viewed by many as a buyout of the nations senior citizens who supported the bill. And while House votes are traditionally held open just for fifteen minutes, Bush and other Republican leaders managed to pressure this one to stay open for a record four hours as they pressured the Republicans who had voted against the bill.

And while there is no record of what actually took place in those calls. But one of the representatives ended up crying on the floor. Executive branch staffers stormed into impromptu meetings with the hold outs and after four hours of negotiations, George Bush got what he was looking for. Medicaid Part D, the single biggest government expenditure in American history, passed by one vote. It was an election year, and many had considered the bill to be a virtual buyout of the senior vote

In our discussions with executive branch staff, they were emphatic about how much the executive branch tracked every single vote, and as such, Presidents (and their staffs) are extreme demanders. Further Amy recounted how the executive branch had teams that sat outside every door, and they had a communication system. If a member voted the ‘wrong way’ the president’s staff would greet them as they excited the committee or chamber door and give them a talking to, and as she said, they "would turn them around and get them to change their vote." Before 1971 this was something (because of the diminished level of transparency) the executive branch could do on approximately 5% of the votes (the floor votes), now they can do it on all of them. Importantly this isn’t the only way we’ve seen the executive branch pressure votes as the recent brouhaha over Senate health care votes made clear. Presidents pressure votes directly and publicly. So again we expect that the executive branch, because of increased congressional transparency, would gain significant power. And we see this.

Lobbyists often struggle to prove their worth to the bean-counters. To make the case for their continued presence, they must be able to point to deliverables, to policies they’ve personally changed in ways that can translate into real bottom-line dollars...Lobbyists have powerful incentives to deliver these particular benefits.
– Drutman 2015
The Result

Presidents gain an enormous amount of power (leverage over Congress) when congressional actions are made transparent.

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '3. Foreigners' : 'Foreigners'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
There’s no freer access to one’s government anywhere in the world than we (Americans) allow to ours. Foreign companies have more of a voice in our country than we or they have in theirs. I don’t think it’s a two-way street.
– Knott 2005 – Foreign Corporations Spend Big to Influence U.S.
Domestic interest groups aren’t the only ones working the halls of Congress. For decades, foreign governments have paid a pretty penny to hire U.S. firms to get their interests on the U.S. agenda. When the Cayman Islands wants to remain a tax haven or Panama needs a trade agreement ratified, foreign governments will spend hundreds of thousands on hired hands.
– World Post 2012 – Foreign Lobbying in the US

Via transparency, even foreign entities (i.e. pharmaceutical giant Novartis, or even powerful governments) are able to demand “equal access” even though they cannot vote in the elections. And, this “access” that no one talks about (process transparency) enables lobbying groups to scientifically track their results, justifying in most cases increased investment in lobbying.

And, so as lobbying produces high ROIs for many of the companies, we would expect a feedback loop where increasing investment (i.e. campaign finance, lobbying etc) leads to increased legislative capture, which leads to increased ROI, etc. This is a feedback loop at least partially driven by transparency, and in our paper “The Evolution of Transparent Corruption” we discuss this dynamic precisely.

The Evidence
Last year, lobbyists for Canada met with members of Congress for “relationship building.” Mexico’s lobbyists reached out to offices about the “Consular Notification Compliance Act,” legislation to protect rights of foreign national prisoners. And Germany lobbied Congress on overseas military bases, presumably since several U.S. installations there are scheduled to be closed.
– Itkowitz 2014 – Which Countries Influence US Politics?
The United Arab Emirates spent a dazzling $5.3 million in 2009 to forge relationships with U.S. officials, the New York Times reported. Saudi Arabia is estimated to have spent about $100 million to gain influence in the U.S. since 2000, LobbyingFirms.com notes. Also according to the New York Times, Morocco paid lobbyists more than $3 million to address its border dispute with Algeria, while Algiers spent $600,000 to advocate against Rabat’s position.
– World Post 2012 – Foreign Lobbying in the US

Just

The Result

Powerful foreign companies and governments gain enormously from congressional transparency

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '4. Party Leaders' : 'Party Leaders'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
Roll-call votes provide an obvious means by which party leaders can monitor compliance with their voting instructions...Legislative parties may use roll-call votes specifically to discipline their members. Roll-call votes allow legislative party leaders to monitor their members’ behavior, which is essential for accurately doling out reward or punishment.
– Carrubba, Gabel & Hug 2008 – Legislative Voting Behavior
Leaders and members regularly set up roll-call (transparent) votes in full knowledge that these votes will have no effect on policy outcomes, but they nevertheless stage them for messaging purposes – that is, to define the differences between the parties in hopes of making their party look more attractive to voters or key constituencies than the opposition.
– Lee 2016 – Insecure Majorities

In 2013 Sarah Binder and Frances Lee wrote: “Transparency often imposes direct costs on successful deal making…public attention increases the incentive of lawmakers to adhere to party messages.” This reflects the ideas of the Founding Founders who suggested that ‘visibility’ compels legislators to stay locked in on their positions, and presents an environment where members were afraid to ask questions or play with new ideas.

Other scholars see similar patterns of conformity: Stephanie Novak in 2015 wrote “decision makers used to voice their disagreement more frequently when they knew their votes would not be published” and Andrea Prat in 2005 wrote “revealing the agent’s action leads to conformism.” And we see this conformity in the numbers as well, as transparent voting is far more likely to break along strict party lines.

This math is reflected in the recent work of Sean Theriault who studies partisanship almost exclusively. His writing is chilling, he writes “Almost the entire growth in party polarization since the early 1970s can be explained by the increased frequency of and polarization on procedural votes in the both the House and the Senate.” And in our conversations, he agrees that transparency/visibilty is essential to this discussion. Importantly, he suggests that while these votes were made transparent in the 1970s, scholars have increasingly understood procedural votes to be ‘invisible’ to the public because they are not covered in the press and are too obscure for watchdog groups. What this means is that they are scrutinied almost exclusively by all the other extreme demanders, and pressure is applied appropriately.

In particular (with respect to partisanship), party leaders vigilantly watch these procedural votes. And as such, party leaders (the Speaker in particular) are important consumers of transparency, and in their interactions with all other members, there is a specific knowledge of how well the member’s individual votes align with those of the leadership, where a strong positive alignment results in better committee positions, increased party funding and better access to the legislative agenda, etc. Using these notions we show that transparency allows for the corruption of even the most ideal member of Congress. In summary, cooperation (such as partisanship) relies on feedback (rewards and punishment) that is based entirely on intricate and detailed information. Without transparency we expect that extreme partisanship disappears, and the data/correlations fit our theories.

It was...best for the convention for forming the Constitution to sit with closed doors...Had the members committed themselves publicly at first, they would have afterwards supposed consistency required them to maintain their ground, whereas by secret discussion no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument.
– James Madison 1787
A main reason for adopting secrecy… is that deputies cannot be held accountable by party leaders
– Elster 2015 – Secrecy and Publicity
The Evidence
Had the members committed themselves publicly at first, they would have afterwards supposed consistency required them to maintain their ground, whereas by secret discussion no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument.
– James Madison 1830 – Reasons For Secrecy

QUOTES FROM CARRUBBA Roll-call votes are typically not requested randomly by a disinterested party; they are selected by a purposive actor (such as a party leader) with a vested interest in what the vote will reveal about legislative behavior to a particular audience. Thus, we cannot be confident that we can infer behavior on the unobserved (non-roll-call) votes from the roll- call votes. This disjunct has negative implications for the use of roll- call votes to estimate legislators' ideal points, the dimensionality of the policy space, and party influence on legislative voting.

Second, legislative parties may use roll-call votes specifically to discipline their members. Roll-call votes allow legislative party leaders to monitor their members' behavior, which is essential for accurately doling out reward or punishment. If we wish to assess the overall level of party discipline in a legislature, then one of the key counterfactuals we need to address is how party members would have voted if an observed roll-call vote on a piece of legislation had not been by roll call.

This is an extremely difficult counterfactual to examine empirically

We chose to focus on the disciplining motivation, because roll-call votes provide an obvious means by which party leaders can monitor compliance with their voting instructions. Moreover, several studies of legislative behavior indicate that party leaders and members in fact request roll calls for this reason (Fennel 1974; Jenkins and Stewart 2003).

As long as it is also believed that representatives should exercise a degree of independent judgement, then transparency can also have costs. I have argued that recent discussions of transparency in government have often overlooked this fact... With regard to polarization, while one might think that the institutional changes of the past forty years to promote openness in government should logically have reduced opinion polarization, the theoretical model presented here suggests why they may have actually had the opposite effect.
– Stasavage 2006 – Polarization and Publicity
The Result

A s transparency gives party leaders enormous power over the rank-and-file, and parties can now push partisans farther to the extremes, partisanship and gridlock soars.

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '5. The Wealthy' : 'The Wealthy'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
The problem is that the Court has given wealthy individuals and corporations the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to Super PACS or spend it on their own independent messages.
– Cain 2014 – How Much Transparency

No group combines all the extreme requirements for government capture like the wealthy. The wealthy are a special interest as in they represent a small proportion of the population. They have a powerful interest in maintaining their wealth. And they have the resources to pressure legislation.

The Evidence
The very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.
Scheiber 2015 – For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System
There’s this notion that the wealthy use their money to buy politicians; more accurately, it’s that they can buy policy, and specifically, tax policy. That’s why these egregious loopholes exist, and why it’s so hard to close them.
Berstein 2015 – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A pplying our idea that ‘legislative accountability overwhelmingly benefits the powerful’ to inequality would mean that increased transparency overwhelmingly benefits the rich to evade taxes and protect their markets. This is precisely what we see, and copious data exists to support this idea.

Indeed, as soon as the congressional conference committees on taxation opened their doors in late 1975, the effective tax rates on the rich plummeted (see graph below).

While this change in taxation contributes enormously to inequality, it is nearly impossible to pin this change on the usual suspects of globalization and technology. Further evidence that globalization and technology are not factors is the diverging inequality between the US and Europe. Indeed where developed countries had low transparency we saw low inequality (see France-US graph below). And we have further found compelling evidence to suggest that the increased transparency was used to pull apart the unions as well.

The rise in lobbying by the wealthy (and all other groups) correlates remarkably well with the 1970s rise in congressional transparency, and this is far more than a simple correlation. In our paper we investigate the massive rise of lobbying through the lens and driving force of legislative transparency. The ultra-wealthy “literally pay millions of dollars for these [lobbying] services,” says scholar Jeffrey A. Winters “and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes.”

The Wealthy Push For Transparency

Indeed, the push for more transparency is often advocated by lobbyists themselves, eager for legal clarity and happy to present themselves as fulfilling a vital role in modern democracies through the information they provide to policymakers.
– Cooper 2017 – Politico

In the 1970s and 1980s the wealthy not only didn’t fight transparency reforms, but they supported them. We are seeing the same forces take place in Europe now (where the EU still has many closed committees). In a recent Politico article, author Cooper notes that the transparency advocates and corporate lobbyists are both pushing for transparency, together.

Concerned about how key negotiations are being pushed into the shadows, transparency campaigners and corporate lobbyists have formed an unlikely coalition in response.
– Cooper 2016 – Politico
There’s this notion that the wealthy use their money to buy politicians; more accurately, it’s that they can buy policy, and specifically, tax policy. That’s why these egregious loopholes exist, and why it’s so hard to close them.
Berstein 2015 – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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The Result

With increased ability for the wealthy to dictate policy, taxation on the rich drops and inequality soars.

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '6. Other Members' : 'Other Members'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
A huge percentage of time is spent on how to use the political process to create a vote that will embarrass the other side. You basically have people working to make each other look as bad and stupid as possible.
– Rep Eric Fingerhut - Kessler 1997 (Inside Congress)

Increased transparency has led to amendment warfare in Congress.

The Evidence
Forcing (transparent/public) votes on divisive “hot-button” issues provides campaign ammunition to party colleagues and supporters back home.
– Oleszek 2015 – Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process

Celebrated congressional scholar, Steven Smith first wrote about what we call “weaponized transparency” in 1989 in Chapter 2 of his book “Call to Order.” His chapter is a scathing indictment of the fallout from the increased transparency measures, which he claims are the sole reason for the increased use of the authoritarian leadership tactics known as special rules, suspension of the rules, etc). Smith claims that the massive increase in roll call voting and amending is the result of members using the increased 1970s transparency to attack other members. So as soon as all amendment votes were made public, any member could propose an amendement that is explicitly written to call out any other member, forcing them into divisive and painful roll call votes.

David King suspects that this dynmic is the main driver for the increase in amendments and forced roll calls (a 400% rise since 1970) in both the federal government and state legislatures. And while various scholars and legislators talk about this problem (Frances Lee, Walter Oleszek, Roger Davidson, Steven Smith, David Obey and others), no systematic study of this issue has ever taken place. We are looking to undertake this in a future paper titled “Weaponized Transparency.” And in all our discussions with other scholars (Mansbridge, Elster, Lee, etc) they are very ethusiastic about this direction.

After 1971 it became relatively easy to demand a recorded vote on amendments... Such rules changes have complicated the lives of members and reinforced some of the more troubling aspects of the permanent campaign... Opposition researchers pore over members’ voting records in an attempt to find a vote contrary to – or a vote that can be (mis)construed as contrary to – the preferences of their constituents. Every vote a member casts must be considered a potential campaign issue. Indeed, some bills and amendments are offered only as a vehicle for forcing a vote that will provide a campaign issue.
- Ornstein & Mann 2000 - Permanent Campaign
The Result

Transparency allows members to conduct full-scale warfare through the amending process, leading to caos, partisanship and plummeting congressional approval ratings.

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '7. The Media' : 'The Media'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
The televising of the House and other transparency reforms of the 1970s were also very useful to a minority party seeking to force its issues into public view.
– Lee 2016 – Inesecure Majorities

Despite their almost abject disinterest in government information, the public aren’t innocent bystanders when it comes to congressional abuses based on transparency. Indeed, increased transparency not only leads to the public being manipulated by the calling for more recorded votes, it also spurs on congressional actions that are detrimental to the functioning of government.

The Evidence

A s Frances Lee notes in her writing, the public is especially concerned about ideas of good governance and potential graft and wastefulness. So as the public might not care about the specifics of GMO testing, trade negotionas, war or education, they get very excited by ideas of a perceived laziness (a member not voting on every bill) or perceived self serving (a member voting on salary or staff that might make their lives easier). And this fear that members have as a result can have dire implications on the institutional capacity of Congress (something you have recently written about).

As you know there have been an increasing number of members that sleep in their office. It has attained a certain cachet and substantial press. By sleeping in their office the members can message to the constituents through the press by saying "I’m thrifty, I don’t use a lot of money. I don’t believe that us members should use tax payer dollars to spoil ourselves." In a way, sleeping in one’s office has received enough public attention that the choice of doing so could be perceived as a transparent vote on government spending. And therefore sleeping in the office has become a strong signal about ideas of ‘good governance.’

The same appears be true in the case of voting for increased institutional capacity or even increased member salaries. Under secrecy, decisions to increase congressional spending would certainly piss off the public, but the individual legislator could avoid direct responsibility for doing son. Once these votes and decisioins are made transparent, they are made personal. And as these issues are “good governance” issues, they are (as Frances Lee suggests) some of the most important votes a member makes. Indeed, Frances Lee writes about the importance of this extensively in her book, saying “[members] strategically deploy 'good government' causes to enhance their own party's reputation and to undercut their opposition’s…[and] congressional partisans exploit these issues to maximize their identification with positive values and their opponents with negative ones.”

So this means to me that voting for increased institutional capacity, higher salaries for staffers, better information systems etc, has become a very sensitive vote in his era of transparency, and so members on both sides of the fence, stay clear from spending any money on themselves.

This, of course, isn’t the only way that a direct accountability to the public might derail the effectiveness of a legislature (JFK despised transparency for these reasons as well), but since it is something you recently wrote about, I figured it worth a mention.

The Result

The public is especially vigilant on perceived waste and good governance issues. But this causes a decline in institutional capacity.

Extreme Demanders

{{windowWidth<=992 ? '8. Academics' : 'Academics'}}

Summary The Evidence The Result
Summary
Roll-call votes are typically not requested randomly by a disinterested party; they are selected by a purposive actor (such as a party leader) with a vested interest in what the vote will reveal about legislative behavior to a particular audience. Thus, we cannot be confident that we can infer behavior on the unobserved (non-roll-call) votes from the roll-call votes. This disjunct has negative implications for the use of roll-call votes to estimate legislators’ ideal points, the dimensionality of the policy space, and party influence on legislative voting.
– Carrubba, Gabel & Hug 2008 – Legislative Voting Behavior

Academics: MYTH: You can't compare votes. You can't say that he or she voted in a similar fashion. Because the bill can be made to look that way. You can't say money had no influence because it can't be measured. There are threats that cost no money. They are there on every vote, but they are the result of the power of money. Voting agains the NRA is something you know you cannot do without getting slapped. You know that from your first vote to your last. They don't need to donate to you for that to happen.

I’m of two minds, as a concerned citizen I see that transparency might be creating problems, but as an academic, I like having access to the data.
– McCarty 2017 – Interview
Roll call votes can be a useful tool to examine certain aspects of legislative behavior. Scholars who choose to use roll call voting as the basis of their studies, however, must consider how electronic voting has changed member behavior. Prior to 1973, members were at the mercy of party leadership, the media, and their own observations when determining how other members were voting. Today, all a member has to do is look up at the display boards and see what color dot appears next to their colleague’s name. The increase in information available in real time to members has undoubtedly changed voting strategies.
– Straus 2012 – The Rise of Roll Call Votes
The Evidence

Just

Lobbyists
– Drutman 2015
The Result

A cademics not only build their careers off of roll call data, they likely come to myriad spurious conclusions as voting in public is less accurate than voting in private.