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


Chapter 1 offers basic examples and descriptives of legislative member organizations (LMOs), briefly outlines our argument, discusses previous research on LMOs, and describes our research design.

Chapter 2 more fully develops our argument and makes the theoretical case for the relational and informational benefits we ascribe to LMOs (see Argument for more details).

In Chapter 3, we present the results of an expert survey we conducted to determine where LMOs exist across a sample of 45 advanced industrial democracies. We find LMOs in 25 countries, provide descriptive information about them, and use statistical methods to determine what factors predict the existence of LMOs. We conclude that the electoral system, the number of legislative parties, and the size of the legislature are the principal determinants of the presence or absence of LMOs in a national legislature.

Having broadly set the stage in this comparative chapter, we narrow our focus to LMOs in two legislatures to test our theoretical propositions about the role of LMOs for the establishment of social relationships that cut across party and committee lines, and about the informational function of LMOs. Specifically, we investigate intergroups in the European Parliament and caucuses in the U.S. Congress in three empirical chapters. Chapter 4 introduces the cases studies, outlines our research design, and describes the data we rely on for testing our theoretical propositions. We then trace the development of intergroups in the EP and provide basic descriptive information about these organizations, which have thus far been neglected in the growing literature on EP politics. The chapter also provides similar information for the U.S. Congress, whose caucuses have received more attention in previous research. Finally, Chapter 4 examines what factors drive legislators to join LMOs in both EP and Congress, relying on both qualitative and quantitative methods and data.

Chapter 5 focuses on the relational functions of LMOs. We present evidence for our proposition that LMOs allow legislators to build social relationships with one another using our interview data. Then, Chapter 5 moves on to a careful examination of LMO network structures using a variety of social network analysis tools. These analyses confirm one of our key theoretical propositions: that LMO ties are bridging ties that connect legislators who would not otherwise be connected to each other. Hence, the structure of LMO networks is such that it ought to facilitate the flow of policy-relevant information throughout the legislature.

Having made this case, Chapter 6 investigates if this potential for efficient information flow is realized, and confirms that LMOs are important arenas for the exchange of both policy and political information. Information exchange takes place both inside the legislature, between LMO members and their offices, but also between insiders and outside advocates that are associated with particular LMOs. These outside organizations, we show, supply legislative subsidies to LMOs and their members by providing policy-relevant information, and also by bearing many of the costs associated with creating and running LMOs.

Finally, Chapter 7 reflects on how exactly LMOs might matter in legislative politics; it also concludes the book. We consider two types of impact LMOs might have on legislative processes and outcomes: direct and indirect. Having provided evidence from both EP and Congress that demonstrates how LMOs sometimes influence legislative processes and outcomes directly, however, we come to the conclusion that, most of the time, the impact of LMOs is indirect and diffuse. LMOs influence the legislative process during its early stages, when legislators are gathering information and communicating with the various stakeholders who share a common interest in an issue or cause. They affect discourse, attention, and priorities, and help disseminate otherwise unavailable, policy-relevant information through social networks composed of political actors who share common policy priorities. This is how LMOs matter, and why legislators choose to expend valuable time and resources on them.