Policy-Specific Information and Informal Agenda Power


  • For helpful comments, we thank Scott Ashworth, Steve Callander, Keith Krehbiel, Alessandro Lizzeri, Adam Meirowitz, Alan Wiseman, and seminar audiences at Caltech, Georgetown, Harvard, Kellogg, Maryland, Ohio State, Stony Brook, APSA 2008, and MPSA 2008.

  • High-profile examples from the literatures on lobbying and legislative politics include Austen-Smith (1990), Baron (2000), and Battaglini (2000). Bendor and Meirowitz (2004) review and critique delegation models.

Alexander V. Hirsch is Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton Department of Politics, 041 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544 (avhirsch@princeton.edu). Kenneth W. Shotts is the David S. and Ann M. Barlow Professor of Political Economy, Stanford GSB, 655 Knight Way, Stanford, CA 94305 (kshotts@stanford.edu).


In Gilligan and Krehbiel's models of procedural choice in legislatures, a committee exerts costly effort to acquire private information about an unknown state of the world. Subsequent work on expertise, delegation, and lobbying has largely followed this approach. In contrast, we develop a model of information as policy valence. We use our model to analyze a procedural choice game, focusing on the effect of transferability, i.e., the extent to which information acquired to implement one policy option can be used to implement a different policy option. We find that when information is transferable, as in Gilligan and Krehbiel's models, closed rules can induce committee specialization. However, when information is policy-specific, open rules are actually superior for inducing specialization. The reason for this surprising result is that a committee lacking formal agenda power has a greater incentive to exercise informal agenda power by exerting costly effort to generate high-valence legislation.