Academic Writing

Working Papers:

Your comments and suggestions are welcome at stano[at]ucsd[dot]edu. As these papers are in draft form, please do not cite them.

  • Dark Parties: Dark Money Networks and Negative Advertising.
    • Following the Citizens United decision in 2010, independent expenditures have grown dramatically both in number and as a percentage of total election spending. A large portion of this money comes from political nonprofits–so-called “dark money” whose incorporation under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code does not force them to disclose the sources of their money to traditional election authorities. In this paper, I utilize a new data set of 1.9 million tax records to draw linkages between these groups using grants made to one another. Using these network ties, I demonstrate that most dark money groups active in politics share ties based on common financiers, forming dense communities analogous to the extended party networks described by past scholars. Further, heightened activity by these “dark parties” is correlated with a greater proportion of negative advertising within a given media market. These results point to a tactical shift in campaigning as independent expenditure organizations take on a greater role and importance in political campaigning as parties and candidates have been hobbled by previous campaign-finance legislation.
  • Closing Down and Cashing In: Extremism and Political Fundraising. Published in State Politics and Policy Quarterly, (Draft Version.)
    • Can politically polarizing events bear dividends for extremist lawmakers? Evidence from California legislative financial disclosures suggests they can. During the state’s numerous budget shutdowns of the last 30 years, extremist legislators outside their party median could expect greater fund-raising hauls than their more centrist counterparts. The results suggest that polarizing events such as California’s perennial budget impasses can make extremist positions more appealing to the polarized political elites who generally fund political campaigns. Regardless of the motivation, however, these results suggest a strong incentive to prolong political discord by extremists–a troubling outcome in cases where super-majority votes are required.
  • The Hashtag Primary: Speaking Narrowly and Broadly in the 2016 Presidential Election.
    • Does the polarization manifest in almost all aspects of American politics also show up on the campaign trail? Evidence from the social media accounts of all candidates in the 2016 U.S. Presidential race indicate that polarization may be more tactical than we previously imagined. Taking a network science approach to candidate and super PAC Twitter accounts, I quantify the polarization of over 6,000 hashtags used to guide Twitter users to content and found that candidates speak to more polarized channels only when they are rising in the polls. These results hold for both parties, though the effect is far more pronounced for Republicans than Democrats.
  • Public Positions, Private Giving: Dark Money and Political Donors in the Digital Age.
    • Dark money—campaign funds raised by 501(c) designated non-profit corporations whose donors are exempt from disclosure—have become an increasingly major factor in the expanding amount of money spent in American elections at both the state and federal level. This paper makes use a one-of-a-kind data-set—the only donor list for a dark money group in existence today—“Americans for Job Security”—which contributed $11 million to two conservative leaning ballot initiative campaigns in California during the 2012 elections. In comparing the mean ideological scores between donors to this dark money group and traditional donors to the two propositions, I find a strong liberal tilt of donors to Americans for Job Security. Turning to a survey experiment, I find that potential voters are more likely to react negatively to an actual argument by opponents of a ballot measure similar to that which Americans for Job Security opposed when they know the names of the actual donors to the dark money group. These results indicate that giving money to a political campaign is a decision influenced by social pressures–an important factor to consider in the development of campaign finance transparency laws.