Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "The Koch Network and Republican Party Extremism," Perspectives on Politics 14, no. 3 (2016): 681-699.
Presidential election years attract attention to the rhetoric, personalities, and agendas of contending White House aspirants, but these headlines do not reflect the ongoing political shifts that will confront whoever moves into the White House in 2017. Earthquakes and erosions have remade the U.S. political terrain, reconfiguring the ground on which politicians and social groups must maneuver, and it is important to make sure that narrow and short-term analyses do not blind us to this shifting terrain. We draw from research on changes since 2000 in the organizational universes surrounding the Republican and Democratic parties to highlight a major emergent force in U.S. politics: the recently expanded “Koch network” that coordinates big money funders, idea producers, issue advocates, and innovative constituency-building efforts in an ongoing effort to pull the Republican Party and agendas of U.S. politics sharply to the right. We review the major components and evolution of the Koch network and explore how it has reshaped American politics and policy agendas, focusing especially on implications for right-tilted partisan polarization and rising economic inequality.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Theda Skocpol, "Billionaires against Big Business: Growing Tensions in the Republican Party Coalition," prepared for delivery at the 2016 Midwest Political Science Association Conference:
As the Republican Party has shifted further to the right, policy battles have broken out between business associations and conservative groups. We use data from Congressional scorecards issued between 2007 and 2014 to analyze areas of policy divergence and convergence between two major organized players in the GOP coalition: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the increasingly comprehensive and assertive political network orchestrated by libertarian multibillionaires Charles and David Koch. We show that policy splits have widened and pinpoint the issue areas where free-market advocacy by the Koch network converges with or differs from the business-friendly menu of policies promoted by the U.S. Chamber. Our findings inform research on ideological polarization and associated shifts in party coalitions. They also illuminate the political reverberations of rising economic inequality, making it clear that the goals and strategies of very wealthy individuals may not be fully aligned with those pursued by business associations.
Jason Sclar, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol, and Vanessa Williamson, "Donor Consortia on the Left and Right — Comparing the Membership, Activities, and Impact of the Democracy Alliance and the Koch Seminars," prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol, and Daniel Lynch, "Business Associations, Conservative Networks, and the Ongoing Republican War over Medicaid Expansion," Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 41, no. 2 (2016): 239-286.
A major component of the Affordable Care Act involves the expansion of state Medicaid programs to cover the uninsured poor. In the wake of the 2012 Supreme Court decision upholding and modifying reform legislation, states can decide whether to expand Medicaid—and twenty states are still not proceeding as of August 2015. What explains state choices about participation in expansion, including governors’ decisions to endorse expansion or not as well as final state decisions? We tackle this puzzle, focusing closely on outcomes and battles in predominantly Republican-led states. Like earlier scholars, we find that partisan differences between Democrats and Republicans are central, but we go beyond earlier analyses to measure added effects from two dueling factions within the Republican coalition: statewide business associations and cross-state networks of ideologically conservative organizations. Using both statistical modeling and case studies, we show that GOP-leaning or GOP-dominated states have been most likely to embrace the expansion when organized business support outweighs pressures from conservative networks. Our findings help make sense of ongoing state-level debates over a core part of health reform and shed new light on mounting policy tensions within the Republican Party.
Related policy brief available here.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "Who Passes Business’s “Model Bills”? Policy Capacity and Corporate Influence in U.S. State Politics," Perspectives on Politics 12, no.3 (2014): 582-602.
Which policymakers are most likely to enact legislation drafted by organized business interests? Departing from the business power scholarship that emphasizes structural, electoral, or financial mechanisms for corporate influence, I argue that lawmakers are likely to rely on businesses’ proposals when they lack the time and resources to develop legislation on their own, especially when they also hold an ideological affinity for business. Using two new datasets of “model bills” developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a policy group that promotes pro-business legislation across the states, I find strong support for this theory. These results indicate that ALEC provides private policy capacity to state legislators who would otherwise lack such support, and relatedly, that low state policy capacity may favor certain organized interests over others—namely the business interests affiliated with ALEC. My findings have implications for the study of business influence in policymaking, as well as for state politics.
Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics," Studies in American Political Development 29, no. 2 (2015): 235-249.
Arguments about national tax policy have taken center stage in U.S. politics in recent times, creating acute dilemmas for Democrats. With Republicans locked into antitax agendas for some time, Democrats have recently begun to push back, arguing for maintaining or even increasing taxes on the very wealthy in the name of deficit reduction and the need to sustain funding for public programs. But the Democratic Party as a whole has not been able to find a consistent voice on tax issues. It experienced key defections when large, upward-tilting tax cuts were enacted under President George W. Bush, and the Democratic Party could not control the agenda on debates over continuing those tax cuts even when it enjoyed unified control in Washington, DC, in 2009 and 2010. To explain these cleavages among Democrats, we examine growing pressures from small business owners, a key antitax constituency. We show that organizations claiming to speak for small business have become more active in tax politics in recent decades, and we track the ways in which constituency pressures have been enhanced by feedbacks from federal tax rules that encourage individuals to pass high incomes through legal preferences for the self-employed. Comparing debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts, we show how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Our findings pinpoint the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and our analysis contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, "Explaining Durable Business Coalitions in U.S. Politics: Conservatives and Corporate Interests across America’s Statehouses," Studies in American Political Development 30, no. 1 (2016): 1-18.
Scholars of business mobilization emphasize that national, cross-sector employer associations are difficult to create and maintain in decentralized pluralist polities like the United States. This article considers an unusual case of a U.S. business group—the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—that has succeeded in creating a durable coalition of diverse firms and conservative political activists. This group has emerged since the 1970s as an important infrastructure for facilitating corporate involvement in the policymaking process across states. Assessing variation within this group over time through both its successes and missteps, I show the importance of organizational strategies for cementing political coalitions between otherwise fractious political activists and corporate executives from diverse industries. A shadow comparison between ALEC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce further serves to reinforce the importance of organizational structure for business association management. My findings engage with literatures in both American business history and comparative political economy, underscoring the difficulties of forming business coalitions in liberal political economies while also showing how savvy political entrepreneurs can still successfully unite otherwise fragmented corporate interests. These conclusions, in turn, have implications for our understanding of business mobilization and corporate influence in politics.
Policy brief by Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez: Why U.S. Conservatives Shape Legislation across the Fifty States Much More Effectively than Liberals, available here.
Policy brief by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez: New Conservative Strategies to Weaken America's Public Sector Unions, available here.