Dissertation Book Project

Machine Gun Politics: Why Politicians Cooperate with Organized Crime

My dissertation book project demonstrates that politicians often benefit from—and even seek out—deals with criminal organizations. Public officials’ willingness to engage with violent, illicit actors around elections drives three questions underpinning my research for this book:

  • Why would a politician collude with a criminal group?

  • Why are certain politicians more likely to collude?

  • What are the electoral and welfare consequences of collusion?

I develop a theory of criminal clientelism, which argues that politicians strike deals with criminal groups in what can be an unexpectedly successful electoral strategy. I explain variation in collusive deal-making between politicians and criminal groups and enumerate two mechanisms through which criminal groups deliver votes: gatekeeping and corralling. I create an original dataset on criminal governance and leverage a natural experiment to closely examine the returns to criminal clientelism in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My mixed-methods dissertation draws from 18 months of in-person field research in Rio de Janeiro, dozens of candidate interviews, and an in-person survey with residents of criminally-governed communities using worksite sampling. 

Read a sample chapter of my dissertation here

Peer-Reviewed Publications

2021. Bullock, J. & Pellegrino, A.P. "How do Covid-19 Stay-at-Home Restrictions Affect Crime? Evidence from Rio de Janeiro, BrazilEconomiA (in-press). [Paper]

Working Papers

​Machine Gun Politics: Why Politicians Cooperate with Criminal Groups [Job Market Paper]

Organized Criminal Groups and Voter Mobilization [Paper]

- Recipient of the Best Paper Award from the Subnational Politics and Society Section, Latin American Studies Association (2020)

- In the news: Pindograma, Piauí

Why Limiting Police Raids Decreased Criminal Violence in Rio de Janeiro. Invited to Revise and Resubmit at World Development[Paper] [Poster]

- Related writings: “Brazilian police killed 27 people in a single raid this month. That doesn’t make Rio de Janeiro safer.The Monkey Cage, Washington Post.

- In the news: The WorldPiauí, O DiaADPF Brazilian Supreme Court Proceedings 


Book Chapters

"How Should Lava Jato End?," in Corruption and the Lava Jato Scandal in Latin America (eds. Paul Lagunes and Jan Svejnar), Routledge Corruption and Anti-Corruption Studies, 2020. (with Matthew Stephenson) [Portuguese Edition]

- In the news: Estadão

In Progress 

Criminal Clientelism in Comparative Perspective. 

The Industrial Organization of Bribery: Evidence from Peru's Fujimori Regime. 

​Other ​Writings and Data 

  • Mapping criminal factions in Rio de Janeiro:

    • I created a time series of criminal dominance in Rio de Janeiro's favelas using open source data on criminal activity (blogs) from 2015 - present. See sample data here and a map of Rio's favelas coded by criminal presence to the right.

  • I have appeared on a few podcasts to discuss my work on crime in Brazil:

  • I have consulted for Transparency International and UNODC about corruption, drug policy, and security in the Americas and Africa.