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Statement of Research Interests

Dr. Bruce Bordner

            Politics is about action.  It is as political scientist Harold Lasswell put it, “Who gets what, when, and how.”  Dr. Bruce Bordner’s research interests span a number of different subfields of political science: American National Institutions, Public Law, Public Policy, Federalism, the Administrative Process, as well as Campaigns and Elections.  Rather than solely studying theories, however, his interest is in exploring the applied world of political science within these various subfields. 

            Broadly, his research interests are focused solidly within political science, but at the point of intersection where the beliefs, goals, values, and ideals of individuals involved in the political and regulatory processes come together with the institutions and regulatory agencies that are charged with establishing, interpreting, and administering these public policies.

Previous Research

Master’s Thesis.

            Bordner’s Master’s Thesis focused on the role of the federal courts in the area of minority vote dilution in legislative redistricting.  The paper explored a number of United States Supreme Court decisions, the impact of these decisions on the redistricting process, and the shifting philosophical makeup of the Court.

Doctoral Dissertation.

            Dr. Bordner’s Doctoral Dissertation was titled, “By Design: The FEC: Regulatory Decision-making as a Constrained Bargaining System.”   The dissertation explored the background need for a law in the area of federal campaign finance, the Federal Election Commission and its statutory authority, the organization of the regulatory agency, and the manner through which the agency is constrained by both the United States Congress and the President. 


            Beyond giving the reader a detailed explanation as to the operations of the agency, the dissertation explores a theory of regulatory decision-making offered up by political scientist Matthew Holden, Jr.    Holden’s model, set forth in an essay entitled, “Pollution Control as a Bargaining Process: An Essay on Regulatory Decision-Making,” argues that lawmakers enact a policy “norm” which serves as the ideal guide as to legislative intent.  In his article, Holden offers the hypothesis that, “[w]hile... agencies certainly do distribute advantages and disadvantages, the distributions which occur are seldom consistent with the distributions which one would have expected if one took the policy norms involved in the creation of the agencies as clues to the agencies’ most likely behavior.”

But, the actions that agency administrators face in setting standards are constrained by certain environmental factors.  Holden's theory outlines four possible constraints placed upon regulatory agency standard setting: technological issues, social values and myths, the size and scope of avenues through which participants can appeal for a better policy outcome, and whether the nature of the interaction involves only a single occurrence or involves repeat interaction. 

The technical nature of a policy area often requires a certain amount of expertise that only the dedicated agency official is deemed to possess.  As a result, the nature of the subject matter, such as federal campaign finance, receives some deference from those in Congress who are not policy experts in this area. 

Second, social values and myths can enter into the standard setting equation.  How do agency officials view the subject that they are charged with administrating?  Do they view campaign finance restrictions as an imposition upon their right to free speech or are campaign finance restrictions a necessary part of our political system.  How one views the role of money in our political process may philosophically impact how an individual agency administrator interprets, implements, and enforces the law.

Third, do avenues of repair exist through which participants in the policy process can appeal? Simply put, can the regulated community appeal decisions by the regulatory agency or do barriers exist which limit appeal options. 

Fourth, is the nature of the interaction a single or repeat occurrence?  The argument is that repeat interactions force give and take or bargaining in the regulatory process because participants are aware that they can or will be interacting in the future.  As federal campaign finance regulation is an ongoing activity, the nature is such that repeat interactions must necessarily occur. 

Because regulatory policy is a technically complex activity administered by individuals in possession of their own values and impacted by society's values, the manner through which regulatory policy is interpreted, administered, and enforced, will likely deviate from the "norm" enacted by the Congress and President.  Because the regulatory agency does not want to see its regulatory powers curtailed by the federal courts, and the added cost of litigation, the agency may attempt to avoid taking actions that will end up in court.  At the same time, the costs of litigation may prompt those in the regulated community to seek a regulatory solution short of going to court.  Lastly, as federal campaign finance regulation is an ongoing activity, the nature is such that repeat interactions must necessarily occur.  The combination of these factors serves to constrain the standard setting actions of the regulatory agency in which they decide who, what, how, how much, and when to enforce the law.

As a result of these constraints, the model concludes that the decisions of agency administrators will rationally deviate from the desired “norm” and administrators will settle for what can be achieved through bargaining – either implicitly or explicitly - to a desired outcome, thus never achieving the policy “norm.”  Each of these issues is explored in the dissertation.

The dissertation also explored the topic of agency competence.  It examined the manner through which the Federal Election Commission pursues enforcement of federal campaign finance law.  The dissertation contains the first profiles detailing the enforcement of single allegations of federal campaign finance law ever created.  The creation of a set of single allegation enforcement profiles for the agency allows researchers to better understand the manner through which enforcement of the Federal Election Campaign Act has changed over time.  To accomplish this objective, two profiles were created examining enforcement actions closed by the FEC from April of 1989 through December 8, 1993 with enforcement actions closed by the FEC from December 9, 1993 through December of 1998.  The two time periods are important, as the agency enacted an Enforcement Prioritization System that was designed to improve enforcement in December of 1993.  From this comes an exploration of agency effectiveness, timeliness, and overall competence.

Current and Future Research

The research conducted in Bordner’s dissertation can serve as the starting point for future research into the role of regulation and campaign finance.  As the Federal Election Commission has enacted an Administrative Fines System, it is now possible to expand the database from 1998 to present.  This will allow for an examination of whether the imposition of an Administrative Fines System by the Federal Election Commission has improved the manner through which the agency carries out its legislative charge.  As a result, the dissertation data can be updated and put into a current publishable form.

Additionally, the concept of the enforcement profiles should be expanded into publishable annual reports or annual enforcement profiles detailing campaign finance enforcement by the Federal Election Commission.  These annual editions also can contain detail analyzing that year’s top campaign finance related topics.  An entire website complete with a searchable database is now possible for detailing the enforcement of campaign finance law by the Federal Election Commission.  To be clear, this will not be a Matters Under Review database, such as can be found on the FEC website, but a searchable database detailing the amount of enforcement by type of violation.  For example, what type of disposition was taken by the FEC on allegations of excess campaign contributions by political action committees.

Bordner’s regulatory research interests build upon his existing research, such that decision-making by the Federal Election Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and other regulatory agencies, can be compared and contrasted.  This also will prove useful for both individual articles detailing regulatory decision-making and rule making by government agencies, or collectively as a regulatory case book. 

Issues of federalism also make up one of his research interests.  He recently began structuring a study that asks the question: What do California cities do to recoup the lost funds that Californians send to Washington, D.C.?  (California is often referred to as a donor state because it sends more money in the form of tax dollars to Washington, D.C., than it receives back in goods and services from the national government).  So, this study seeks to examine local municipalities in order to determine the manner through which they are pursuing federal funds for projects. 


As can be seen above, Dr. Bordner’s research interests really do come from the world of applied political science, public law, and public policy.  These are just a sampling of his research interests.  Other interests include the enactment of state legislative term limitations, the role of the economy in mass political behavior, Google Earth Mapping of political contributions by congressional district and state, and the government regulation of both high technology and healthcare.