2023 Award for Excellence in Oversight Research

Professor Jason MacDonald, West Virginia University 

The Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy granted its 2023 Award for Excellence in Oversight Research to The Rise and Fall of Congressional Oversight of the Bureaucracy: The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 1969-2018, by Jason MacDonald, Associate Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University. MacDonald’s paper appears in the Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy.  Chosen by a selection committee composed of law and political science oversight scholars and veteran practitioners, the award-winning paper emerged from a competitive field of excellent candidate papers. The award includes a $2,500 cash prize.

“The Levin Center is delighted to bestow its 2023 award on this 50-year deep dive into the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s efforts to oversee federal agency conduct,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy.  “In a ground-breaking review of a congressional committee known for serious investigations, the paper concentrates on a particular type of oversight involving federal agencies, employs innovative analytical elements, and chronicles changes in the amount of committee oversight over time.”

The selection committee found that Professor MacDonald’s paper offered a compelling, well-sourced review of a congressional committee’s oversight work over five decades. The selection committee also recognized the paper’s use of several innovative review techniques and analytics, including reviewing hearing opening statements to identify oversight hearings; using the number of agency witnesses as an identifier of agency oversight hearings; and concluding that the committee’s agency-related oversight decreased over time despite an overall increase in committee hearings exploring issues other than legislation.

The selection committee noted that the paper also invited additional academic analysis of key issues such as the impact of a 1995 reduction in House committee resources on congressional oversight, whether the same trends apply to private sector oversight, and the role of committee leadership, including the impact of longtime Energy and Commerce Committee chair John Dingell, who is featured in a Levin Center Portrait in Oversight.

Watch the presentation of Professor Jason MacDonald's paper recorded on February 26, 2024