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Exposing Malfeasance: Government Transparency in the Fifty States


This thesis contributes to our understanding of government corruption and the transparency laws designed to prevent and expose it. Specifically, it analyzes the political conditions under which we expect to see transparency laws emerge, the strength of the laws we expect under different mixes political power, and the economic and political effects that result from transparency laws. It analyzes three cases of transparency laws: whistleblower laws; bounty laws, in particular the false claims act; and campaign finance transparency laws. These laws vary in terms of the burden and risk assumed by individuals availing themselves of the information provided by the laws. It finds, using quantitative methods supplemented by expert interviews, that the high burden, high risk laws are passed for politically predictable reasons, though they are less likely to have an actual effect in terms of political or economic outcomes. Low burden, low risk laws, however, have a clearer impact.

In addition to using large datasets on political advertising, county and local bond ratings and yields, and campaign finance disclosure laws, the project contributes original data on state-level whistleblower laws and local-level government corruption, as well as providing an update to existing data on state-level political competition.

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