Working Papers

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“Reelection Reform and Removing Rivals in Mexico.”

Abstract What is the effect of introducing reelection on criminal engagement in elections? Examining an electoral reform in Mexico, I argue that reelection can bring stability to the ties between criminal groups and local politicians. Politicians may be incentivized to collude with organized crime to win reelection, and, armed with longer political horizons, the long-term deals they make with criminal groups may be more credible. When one criminal group has a monopoly on illicit power, this collusion may result in lower levels of violence against politicians. On the other hand, reelection also increases the value of office. Where groups compete for control of localities, this can incentivize violence during an election, followed by a period of stability after the winner is established. To test this theory, I exploit the staggered implementation of electoral reform in Mexico. Using a multi-period difference-in-differences design with an original dataset of attacks on local politicians, I find that reelection had a negative effect on violence, regardless of the degree of competition between groups. I also examine other indicators of engagement, such as the number of candidates, concentrations of vote shares, and electoral crimes. Further, I find attacks in municipalities had spillover effects, precipitating attacks nearby. This paper contributes to the larger literature which seeks to understand the interaction of organized crime, politics, and institutional reforms.
  • Keywords: reelection; institutional reform; organized crime; criminal violence; elections; Mexico

“Direct and Indirect Criminal Governance”

Abstract Violent armed groups around the world formally designate institutions, from specialized coercive institutions to ones that provide services. For groups that seek to reform, remove, or supplant the state, these institutions are a mechanism of direct governance by which the groups can impose a new political or social order. For groups which do not seek statehood, however, these institutions help them achieve their non-political goals, such as economic ones. However, because these groups do not rival the state, they can also co-opt state institutions and govern indirectly. This project examines the trade-off that non-state-seeking groups face when choosing an institutional arrangement. They can govern indirectly, through co-opting state institutions, or directly by developing their own institutions. Indirect governance establishes immediate access to state power, but introduces principal-agent problems. When the state is unable to serve a faithful agent, groups may choose to form their own institutions. These can be more effective but also are much more costly to establish and maintain. I examine this conceptualization using qualitative evidence of coercive institutions by criminal groups in Mexico (1990-2010).
  • Keywords: criminal governance; institutions; non-state governance; order

“Democratic Accountability and Multiple Principals”

Abstract How does the introduction of competing principals impact voters' ability to hold politicians accountable? This project builds off of canonical models of democratic accountability, which frame reelection as a chance for voters to solve the moral hazard problem they face with politicians. Here, however, there is a second principal who is also vying for control of the politician, as the agent, but who has fundamentally divergent goals from the voters. This principal also has a different set of skills which they can employ to coerce the official, using both bribes and threats. The politician, therefore, must appraise the risks they face and the value of holding office, given the incentives offered by each of the principals. This model has broad applications, applying wherever principals, armed with differing capacities, compete for control of an agent.
  • Keywords: multiple principals; accountability; moral hazard; delegation; organized crime; formal model

“Violence Incorporated: State Response to Pro-Government Militias in Northern Ireland”

  • Written with: Danielle Villa, Emily Gade, and Sarah Dreier
Abstract Pro-government militias (PGMs) actively participate in conflicts around the world. Yet governments openly support select PGMs, maintain covert links with certain PGMs, and ignore or actively suppress others. Why do states support some pro-government militias and de-legitimize others, particularly when the militias engage in similar behavior? We develop a formal model of government decision-making in this process, and contextualize this model with an in-depth analysis of the early years of Britain's ``Troubles in Northern Ireland.'' We analyze 8,430 recently declassified documents from the United Kingdom Prime Ministers’ security-based Correspondence Files (1969-1974), which detail the British government's internal attitudes and behaviors toward more than 20 Loyalist PGM groups. We argue that states balance their military needs with goals of social control and engagement with supporters. This project provides the first internal account of governmental attitudes towards PGMs, contributing to a greater understanding of the factors that influence the decision-making process of governments in conflict.
  • Keywords: Loyalist paramilitaries; pro-government militias; qualitative research; Northern Ireland

Data Collection

“Mapping Criminal Governance”

Abstract How do criminal groups govern? While our understanding of governance by criminal organizations has grown, there is little systematic data to map it. This project seeks to address this gap. Using newspaper articles from _The New York Times_ containing the names of more than 50 randomly selected groups from across Latin America, this project implements a supervised machine learning approach to code more than thirty indicators of criminal governance. This indicators include who is governing (what group or groups), how they are governing (enforcing rules, collecting taxes, distributing goods), and who they are governing (civilians, other criminals, or the state). This project seeks to expand our understanding of criminal governance across the globe.
  • Keywords: criminal governance; Latin America; Natural Language Processing; supervised machine learning