"The Political Origins of Mexico’s Corruption"
Viridiana Rios, PhD Candidate, Department of Government, Harvard University.
Steven Levitsky, Faculty Associate; Chair, Weatherhead Research Cluster on Global Populism/Challenges to Democracy. David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies, Department of Government, Harvard University; Harvard College Professor.
In contexts where corruption is widespread, why do some incumbents choose to not be corrupt? My research argues that party loyalty is a major influence to reduce corruption and test this argument using fine-grained data of 12 billion dollars audited to 3,601 local incumbents over a period of 16 years. Contributing to an unsettled and vibrant debate about the influence of partisan politics in corruption, our data allow us to test three possible mechanisms that could be driving political actors to limit the misappropriation of public resources during their tenure: insurance mechanisms, according to which incumbents reduce corruption to avoid prosecution; party loyalty, where corruption diminishes to protect political cliques from public discredit, and ideological incentives, where corruption diminishes because it is part of the programmatic agenda of incumbent’s party. We find the greatest evidence in favor of party loyalty. Our results suggest the existence of a corruption political cycle in which party loyalty modulates corruption according to a tradeoff between accessing illegal resources and protecting the image of the party. Only when partisan loyalty is combined with low resource requirements does corruption diminishes.