Pen Pals: Legislator Characteristics and Collaboration in Congressional Letter-Marking Networks
38 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 13, 2016
The ban on earmarks in Congress has lead to an increase in the practice of letter-marking, where members of Congress explicitly ask (in writing) the head of an administrative agency to retain, or allocate, distributive benefits in their districts. These letters can come from an individual MC a group of MCs. While previous work on the role of group dynamics in Congress has examined the role of traditional factors, such as ideological distance and shared partisanship in the more formal cosponsorship networks (e.g. McPherson et al. 2001; Gross 2008; Zhang et al. 2008), no scholarship has examined the structure of these more informal letter-marking networks. Using a novel data set of Congressional letters written to federal agencies, we use investigate the role of legislator characteristics on the structure of letter-marking networks. Specifically, we explore the importance of collaboration and competition in MC decisions to co-author letters to agencies. Our findings suggest members seek out similar members to work with, regardless of shared benefits.
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