The Selective Enforcement of Government Regulation: Battleground States, State Regulators, and the EPA
48 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2016 Last revised: 2 Jul 2021
Date Written: June 30, 2021
The Electoral College creates incentives for politicians and regulators to direct policy favors to so called "battleground" or "swing" states (the median voters in presidential elections). We examine
whether regulators treat battleground states favorably by examining whether the EPA is less likely
to find a regulated facility in violation of the Clean Water Act if it is located in a battleground state.
We find that violation rates for these facilities are significantly lower than those in non-battleground
states. Reduced enforcement is widespread and spans a sample period of over thirty years. We
provide important evidence for a mechanism by which this occurs: facilities in battleground states
are issued permits that are more lenient than those in non-battleground states. Identification is
obtained by the analysis of the violation rates of similar facilities located along the border between
battleground and non-battleground states. This selective enforcement appears to primarily result
from lax EPA oversight of state-level regulators.
Keywords: Regulation, regulatory enforcement, battleground states, swing states, public policy
JEL Classification: G18, L51, J18, K32, P48, I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation