Pamela Ban - How Are Politicians Informed? Witnesses and Information Provision in Congress

Graham Stuart Lounge - Encina Hall West, Room 400

How are politicians informed and who do politicians seek information from? The role of information has been at the center for research on legislative organizations but there is a lack of systematic empirical work on the information that Congress seeks to acquire and consider. To examine the information flow between Congress and external groups, we construct the most comprehensive dataset to date on 74,082 congressional committee hearings and 755,540 witnesses spanning 1960-2018. We show descriptive patterns of how witness composition varies across time and committee, and how different types of witnesses provide varying levels of analytical information. We develop theoretical expectations for why committees may invite different types of witnesses based on committee intent, inter-branch relations, and congressional capacity. Our empirical evidence shows how committees’ partisan considerations can affect how much committees turn to outsiders for information and from whom they seek information.


Pamela Ban's research interests are in American politics and political economy.  She focuses on electoral politics, legislatures, political parties, and how these institutions influence the behavior of political actors.  Currently, she is working on various projects that study congressional committees, power within Congress, and lobbying.  She received a PhD in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University in 2018 and a BA in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University in 2012.