I am a fifth year PhD student in Political Science Department at Washington University in St. Louis. My research centers on American political institutions, with a focus on the presidency, organized interests, and legislative politics, and addresses substantive issues including representation and inequality in political voice. My work applies quantitative approaches to analyze both observational “big data” and original surveys and experiments conducted with elite and mass public samples.
My dissertation explores how presidents engage with organized interests to pursue their goals. In one of the most comprehensive studies to date of how presidents interact with organized interests, I examine with which interests presidents engage, how presidents encourage interests to cooperate with their aims, and how presidents benefit from engaging with interests. In one chapter, I use over 7 million White House visitor logs records from the Clinton, Obama, and Trump presidencies and ancillary data sets, some of which I obtained through FOIA requests and archival work at the Clinton Presidential Library, to demonstrate that presidents are more likely to engage with interests who are most capable of influencing and most willing to support their goals—well-resourced and copartisan interests, respectively. In a subsequent chapter, I use data on federal grants, advisory committee appointments, and the White House’s public statements to show that presidents encourage cooperation among the interests with whom they engage by providing selective incentives. In a different chapter, I conduct survey experiments with organized interest representatives and the mass public to illustrate that organized interests are more willing to lobby Congress and the public when presidents engage with them, and that interests’ lobbying of the public enhances public attitudes towards presidents and their policies. In addition to my quantitative analyses, I draw on an original survey of over 600 federal lobbyists and more than a dozen interviews with organized interest representatives and former White House officials to inform my theoretical claims and contextualize my findings. My dissertation addresses a theoretical gap bridging presidents and organized interests and speaks to broader substantive issues including presidential representation and the sources of inequality in political voice in American politics.