Get to know your campus: Professor Schatzinger

By: Ben Valdez 

Professor Schatzinger is an associate professor of politics and government at Ripon College. He was born and raised in Germany and, ironically, specializes in American politics.

Schatzinger’s focus is lobbying and interest groups, and his three current research projects are focused on these issues. The main project, and one nearest to completion, is “Self Interest in Uncle Sam: The Effects of Legislators Wealth on Legislation.”

This project looks into the effects of how a legislator’s personal wealth factors into their voting behaviour. He is working with co-author Aaron Dusso, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue, and they have received help from multiple Ripon College students, including Marcus Reed, RaeAnn Brixius and alumnus Jeremy Johnson.

Schatzinger is trying to explain what causes members of Congress to deviate their votes from party lines, especially in this day and age, when party lines are viewed as a priority.

 Schatzinger says that there has been little research on this topic, and he hopes to fill that gap. Of all the possible factors as to why legislators are voting away from party lines this project focuses on the personal wealth and economic investments of a House of Representative. Schatzinger and Dusso seek to answer: “Does personal wealth explain how they vote on bills concerning their own salary or on bills that would affect their investments?” Their research has found a significant correlation between a legislator’s wealth and whether they vote to keep it or improve it.

Furthermore, the pair have found that a legislator with less wealth is more likely to vote on a personal living wage increase. On the other hand, they found that the wealthy voted to pass bills that helped the lower class.

Schatzinger and colleagues started this project at the beginning of 2013 and they hope to have it published by the end of 2015. At present, they are unsure to which scholarly journal they will submit it.

They chose to expand the data collection from the current Congress to the past three Congresses, resulting in a larger number of bills presented to the house floor and voted on. The goal of this project is: to understand how powerful the elite and interest groups are, and if they are what should be done to restrict their power.

Schatzinger wants this research to not only be for the realm of academia, but he also thinks that this information is important for the public to know in order to understand the current status of the American political system.