Yet One More Way in Which D.C. Is Like High School?
Happy Election Day, everyone! Please don’t read this before you vote.
In this paper we demonstrate that personal connections amongst politicians, and between politicians and firms, have a significant impact on the voting behavior of U.S. politicians. We exploit a unique database linking politicians to other politicians, and linking politicians to firms, and find both channels to be influential. Networks based on alumni connections between politicians, as well as common seat locations on the chamber floor, are consistent predictors of voting behavior. For the former, we estimate sharp measures that control for common characteristics of the network, as well as heterogeneous impacts of a common network characteristic across votes. For common seat locations, we identify a set of plausibly exogenously assigned seats (e.g., Freshman Senators), and find a strong impact of seat location networks on voting. Further, we show that connections between firms and politicians influence Congressional votes on bills that affect these firms. These network effects are stronger for more tightly linked networks, and at times when votes are most valuable.
An important note from the paper:
We use a variety of novel data sources to create the sample we use in this paper. First we hand-collect the complete biographical record of all Senators and Representatives from the 101st through 110th Congresses, using the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress available online. From this website, and from the individual websites of the Congressmen, we extract information on academic institutions attended, religious affiliations, birthdates, home towns, and past work experience. We use this data to create the alumni connection and other connection variables that we exploit in our analysis. We also merge this data with data on the educational backgrounds of the senior management of corporations headquartered in the home state of the Senators and Representatives in our database … for details on the construction of this firm-level biographical data.