Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony Nownes

Committee Members

Patricia Freeland, Nathan J. Kelly, Benjamin Feldmeyer


Much scholarly attention has been devoted to the role of political parties in Congress. One of the major theories of party legislative organization is cartel theory. Cartel theory assumes that each legislative party possesses a party record or reputation, which influences the election prospects for all members of the party. It provides an electoral incentive to encourage cooperation among party members in a single chamber of Congress.

Congressional scholars have paid little attention to the party record. In the following chapters, I bring together the desultory scholarly research on the party record and examine the impact of the party record on aggregate challenger entry, aggregate retirements, and seat change for the United States House of Representatives from 1970-2008.

Two party record components, integrity and ideology, are taken from previous research on the party record. I develop and test a third measure, aggregate party-level negative integrity, based on television evening news coverage of each party’s scandals in the House.

Using ordinary least squares regression, I find that two components of the party record, competence and integrity, influence aggregate challenger entry but not aggregate quality challenger entry. The party record does not impact aggregate retirements. However, in a logistic regression model of individual retirements of House members accused of scandal, I find that party leaders are successful at pressuring certain party members to resign or retire from the House. Moreover, in a negative binomial regression model of evening news stories attributable to each member’s scandal, when party leaders are successful at forcing a member to quit, he or she generates less negative publicity for the party Finally, using OLS regression, I find that the party record does not impact seat change in the House except in open seat races. In open seat races, the ideological component of the party record positively impacts seat change.

I conclude by describing the impact of these results on theories of legislative organization. I then describe the impact of these results on democratic theory as it relates to collective responsible via responsible parties.

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