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The Agenda Setting Powers of Party Organizations /


In this dissertation project, I challenge extant theories of party organizations in the United States and the role that party organizations play in conditioning the behavior of members of Congress. In the first Chapter, I outline the theoretical and empirical deficiencies that have inhibited the study of party organizations, and I offer a new theory of party organizations that more appropriately characterizes party organizational responses to institutional constraints. In the second Chapter, I conceptualize party organizations, interest groups, and campaign committees as nodes within campaign finance networks and assemble networks of campaign finance activity for each electoral cycle from 1980 to 2010 using itemized contributions records provided by the FEC. I find strong evidence that campaign finance networks have become more partisan over time and that party organizations are central actors in that process. In the third Chapter, I use campaign finance data to develop new measures of state party organizational strength and national integration, and I demonstrate the relationship between these measures and political competition and partisan polarization. Finally, in the fourth Chapter, I conduct regression analyses to demonstrate that party organizational activity, contrary to existing theoretical and empirical work, has a strong positive influence on the partisan behavior of members of the House of Representatives. This finding suggests that party organizations play an important role in the election of House members who are willing to cooperate with party leadership, solidifying negative agenda control powers and enhancing prospects for the advancement of positive agendas

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