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Book Project

Machine Gun Politics: Why Politicians Cooperate with Organized Crime

My 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 here

Peer-Reviewed Publications

2022. Trudeau, J. "Limiting Aggressive Policing Can Reduce Police and Civilian Violence." World Development. [Replication] [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 

2022. Bullock, J. & Pellegrino, A.P. "How do Covid-19 Stay-at-Home Restrictions Affect Crime? Evidence from Rio de Janeiro, BrazilEconomiA. 22(3): 147-163.

Working Papers

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

- Recipient of the Franklin L. Burdette/Pi Sigma Alpha Best Paper Award, American Political Science Association (2022)

- Recipient of the Best Paper Award from the Conflict Processes Section, American Political Science Association (2022)

- Recipient of the Elinor and Vincent Ostrom Prize for Best Graduate Student Paper and Presentation, Public Choice Society (2022)

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

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 

Strategic Cartography: How Map-Making Enables or Obstructs Social Inclusion (with Ana Paula Pellegrino)

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

Who Wants to Be a Police Officer? (with Carlos Schmidt-Padilla and Juan Campos)


  • 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 - 2020. See sample data here and a sample cross-section of Rio's favelas coded by criminal presence below.

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