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Title:On to bigger and better things: the behavioral consequences of ambition in the US House of Representatives
Author(s):LaForge, Chera
Director of Research:Sulkin, Tracy E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Sulkin, Tracy E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Bernhard, William T.; Miler, Kristina; Mondak, Jeffery J.
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Progressive Ambition
Nascent Ambition
Legislative Behavior
Campaign Finance
Congressional Careers
Abstract:This dissertation explores how progressive ambition—or the pursuit of a higher office—affects the behavior of members of the United States House of Representatives. Drawing upon a wide variety of legislative and campaign activities (including roll call votes, introductions and cosponsorships, amendments, and campaign contributions), I examine whether ambitious legislators increase the levels of their activity, modify the content of their agendas, and spend more time and effort fundraising. Overall, I find that the decision to pursue a higher office alters legislative and campaign behavior. Legislators who display progressive ambition shirk their current responsibilities by missing more roll call votes. At the same time, they increase both the number of introductions offered and the number of issues they address as part of their policy agenda. Progressively ambitious legislators also raise and spend more money than others within the House of Representatives. These same legislators also maintain a larger campaign war chest in anticipation of an expensive higher office run. My results show that ambition shapes the representative-constituency relationship and policy-making outputs of Congress. I also provide multiple measures of ambition—both expressed and nascent—to further our understanding of ambition as a concept. I find ambition is common, but it is not universal. In reality, legislators hold different levels of ambition. Many legislators are happy with the power and prestige afforded to them by their position in the House of Representatives. Some have no interest in running for a higher office if there are costs or risks are involved. Others are nascently ambitious, seriously considering another political office, but never running because of the costs and risks involved in the process. Finally, many are expressly ambitious and actively pursue a seat in the Senate, governorship, or presidency.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Chera LaForge
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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