Political Scandal: A Theory
51 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2020
Date Written: March 14, 2020
We study a model that characterizes the conditions under which past misbehavior becomes the subject of present scandal, with consequences for both the implicated politician and the parties that work with him. In the model, both authentic and fake scandals arise endogenously within a political framework involving two parties that trade off benefits of continued collaboration with a suspect politician against the possibility of reputational fallout. Rising polarization between the two parties, we show, increases the likelihood of scandal while decreasing its informational value. Scandals that are triggered by only the opposing party, we also find, are reputationally damaging to both parties and, in some instances, reputationally enhancing to the politician. The model also reveals that jurisdictions with lots of scandals are not necessarily beset by more misbehavior. Under well-defined conditions, in fact, scandals can be a sign of political piety.
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