How Politicians React to Anti-Corruption Investigations and Enforcement: Evidence from Brazil

My book project is a theoretical and empirical investigation of how reactions by political elites moderate the efficacy of anticorruption policies. I examine policies implemented in Brazil since the early 2000s and their consequences for electoral accountability, legislative oversight, and judicial accountability. I take advantage of randomized investigations of municipal governments and various quasi-experimental methods, including variation in the propagation of television and radio signals and close elections.

I provide an explanation and systematic tests for why anticorruption policies often fail: those who enjoy large short-term benefits use public office to respond strategically after their wrongdoing is exposed. This includes co-opting politicians in the legislative branch to prevent defections, further investigation, and impeachment proceedings. I use comprehensive data on wealth accumulation and employment income for the universe of local politicians. The distribution of material rewards (e.g., through patronage) allows incriminated politicians to build a legislative shield and remain in government, even in contexts of intense electoral competition. In municipalities where the local elite is more fragmented, more resources are redistributed to block accountability and transformations in governments.

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