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"What's In It For Me?": Why Members of Congress Pursue Oversight
Unformatted Document Text:  to one era – the 105-109 th Congresses. 10 Despite the fact that the subcommittee system was relatively stable during this pe- riod of Republican rule, occasionally new subcommittees were born, old ones died, andmarriages and divorces 11 occurred. An accurate compilation of subcommittee transfers requires distinguishing inconsequential changes in subcommittee names from these moresignificant events. In making these determinations, I used the Policy Agendas Project’sSubcommittee Codebook as a guide. 12 To obtain a reliable record of subcommittee transfers, I examined congressional pub- lications that include subcommittee membership lists. 13 Any time that an MC’s name was dropped from a roster between one report and the subsequent report, and that MCdid not leave the House during the intervening period, I considered that MC to havetransferred off of the subcommittee. Similarly, any time an MC appeared in one reportbut not the preceding one (excepting those MCs who entered the House during the inter-vening period), I considered that MC to have transferred onto the subcommittee. Usingthis method, I recorded a total of 1648 subcommittee transfers during the 105 th -109 th Congresses. 2.1.3 Model & Methods The method that I use to determine MCs’ preferences among subcommittees was devel-oped by Tim Groseclose and Charles Stewart in two companion articles (Groseclose &Stewart, 1998; Stewart & Groseclose, 1999). Their technique represents an improvementover other methods of ranking committees because it considers not only a Committee A’srelative proportion of transfers on to transfers off, but also from which other committeesCommittee A is gaining – and to which others it is losing – members. Since the infor-mation that Committee A lost 12 members would be interpreted very differently if themembers were lost to Ways & Means (which is considered to be a desirable committee)than if they instead left to join Standards of Official Conduct (which many observersconsider to be a “burden committee”). Stewart & Groseclose’s model is as follows. First, they define the average value that MCs attach to service on unit j as v j . The value that an individual MC i places on subcommittee j, denoted as v i j , is equal to v j + ε i j , where ε i j is the difference between MC transfers from/to Public Building & Economic Development before and after the 104 th Congress (1995- 96) in the same measure would not be appropriate – this subcommittee is a substantially different bodyin these two periods. 10 By examining the entire 105-109 th period as a whole (as well as comparing the 105-106 th and 107- 109 th periods), I implicitly assume that the preference ranking does not change within these periods. As in other studies of committee transfers (e.g., Bullock & Sprague, 1969; Munger, 1988; GrosecloseStewart, 1998), the relatively low number of transfers-per-Congress necessitates this grouping of multipleCongresses together. Like these authors, though, I also acknowledge that preference rankings are unlikelyto be static across these somewhat lengthy periods. 11 in which multiple committees merged their jurisdictions into one new committee, and vice-versa 12 Baumgartner, Frank and Bryan Jones, Policy Agendas Project, Committee Codebook. available on- line at [accessed 21 February 2008] 13 These sources include: the “List of Standing Committees and Select Committees and their Subcom- mittees” published biennially by the Clerk of the House; and various committee prints, usually entitled“Journal and History of Legislation” or “Committee Legislative Calendar.” While the primary purpose ofthese publications is to provide a record of committees actions, they typically also include subcommitteemembership rosters. Between these two sources, I was able to obtain subcommittee membership listsupdated at least once per year during the period under study. 5

Authors: Feinstein, Brian.
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background image
to one era – the 105-109
Despite the fact that the subcommittee system was relatively stable during this pe-
riod of Republican rule, occasionally new subcommittees were born, old ones died, and
marriages and divorces
occurred. An accurate compilation of subcommittee transfers
requires distinguishing inconsequential changes in subcommittee names from these more
significant events. In making these determinations, I used the Policy Agendas Project’s
Subcommittee Codebook as a guide.
To obtain a reliable record of subcommittee transfers, I examined congressional pub-
lications that include subcommittee membership lists.
Any time that an MC’s name
was dropped from a roster between one report and the subsequent report, and that MC
did not leave the House during the intervening period, I considered that MC to have
transferred off of the subcommittee. Similarly, any time an MC appeared in one report
but not the preceding one (excepting those MCs who entered the House during the inter-
vening period), I considered that MC to have transferred onto the subcommittee. Using
this method, I recorded a total of 1648 subcommittee transfers during the 105
Model & Methods
The method that I use to determine MCs’ preferences among subcommittees was devel-
oped by Tim Groseclose and Charles Stewart in two companion articles (Groseclose &
Stewart, 1998; Stewart & Groseclose, 1999). Their technique represents an improvement
over other methods of ranking committees because it considers not only a Committee A’s
relative proportion of transfers on to transfers off, but also from which other committees
Committee A is gaining – and to which others it is losing – members. Since the infor-
mation that Committee A lost 12 members would be interpreted very differently if the
members were lost to Ways & Means (which is considered to be a desirable committee)
than if they instead left to join Standards of Official Conduct (which many observers
consider to be a “burden committee”).
Stewart & Groseclose’s model is as follows. First, they define the average value that
MCs attach to service on unit j as v
. The value that an individual MC i places on
subcommittee j, denoted as v
, is equal to v
+ ε
, where ε
is the difference between MC
transfers from/to Public Building & Economic Development before and after the 104
Congress (1995-
96) in the same measure would not be appropriate – this subcommittee is a substantially different body
in these two periods.
By examining the entire 105-109
period as a whole (as well as comparing the 105-106
and 107-
periods), I implicitly assume that the preference ranking does not change within these periods.
As in other studies of committee transfers (e.g., Bullock & Sprague, 1969; Munger, 1988; Groseclose
Stewart, 1998), the relatively low number of transfers-per-Congress necessitates this grouping of multiple
Congresses together. Like these authors, though, I also acknowledge that preference rankings are unlikely
to be static across these somewhat lengthy periods.
in which multiple committees merged their jurisdictions into one new committee, and vice-versa
Baumgartner, Frank and Bryan Jones, Policy Agendas Project, Committee Codebook. available on-
line at [accessed 21 February 2008]
These sources include: the “List of Standing Committees and Select Committees and their Subcom-
mittees” published biennially by the Clerk of the House; and various committee prints, usually entitled
“Journal and History of Legislation” or “Committee Legislative Calendar.” While the primary purpose of
these publications is to provide a record of committees actions, they typically also include subcommittee
membership rosters. Between these two sources, I was able to obtain subcommittee membership lists
updated at least once per year during the period under study.

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