Legislative Member Organizations as Social Networks in the United States and the European Union

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Why do legislators invest scarce time and resources into forming and maintaining voluntary groups that provide few obvious benefits? Legislative member organizations (LMOs)—such as caucuses in the US Congress and intergroups in the European Parliament (EP)—exist in numerous law-making bodies around the world. Yet unlike parties and committees, LMOs play no obvious and pre-defined role in the legislative process. “Bridging the Information Gap” argues that LMOs provide legislators with opportunities to establish social relationships with colleagues with whom they share a common interest in an issue or theme. The social networks composed of these relationships, in turn, offer valuable opportunity structures for the efficient exchange of policy-relevant information between legislative offices. Building on classic insights from the study of social networks, the authors demonstrate that LMO networks are composed of weak, bridging ties that cut across party and committee lines, thus providing lawmakers with access to otherwise unattainable information and making all members of the network better informed. Building on a comparative approach, the book provides an overview of the existence of LMOs across advanced, liberal democracies and offers two nuanced case studies of LMOs in the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress. These case studies rely on a mixed method set-up that garners the respective strengths of social network analysis, sophisticated statistical methods, and careful qualitative analysis of a large number of in-depth interviews.