Capitol from the east looking over DC

About Me

My name is Sean Kelly. I am Professor of Political Science at California State University ChannelCSUCI Campus Islands in Camarillo, California. Camarillo is located north of Los Angeles and south of Santa Barbara.  CSUCI is the newest campus in the California State University System; it was established in 2002.  The CSUCI campus is nestled against the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, and is just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway.  

I am a native of Seattle, Washington. I earned my B.A. degree in political science from Seattle University in 1986, and my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Colorado in 1992. I am an alumnus of the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship Program (1993-1994). As  a fellow I worked for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee -- an arm of the Democratic Leadership, Co-Chaired at the time by Senators George Mitchell and Tom Daschle -- as a health policy analyst. I joined the faculty at Cal. State Channel Islands in 2007 after teaching for eight years at Niagara University in Lewiston, NY, and six years at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.


I teach very broadly in the area of American politics including research methods, public policy and administration, the presidency, Congress, environmental politics and policy, political behavior, state and local politics, and politics through film. 

I am particularly interested in engaging students in collaborative research projects related to my current research. Students gain an appreciation for applying concepts learned in class to make new connections, and create new knowledge. They present their independent research at appropriate conferences.


My research focuses on American political institutions, primarily Congress. The approach employs multiple methodologies--both quantitative and qualitative--relying heavily on archival data sources.  I firmly believe that archival sources contain data of considerable interest to political scientists, but they remain woefully under utilized. My research also capitalizes on interviews with "Washington insiders," grounding my research in the realities of practical politics.

Committee Assignment Politics

Cover of Committee Assignment PoliticsScott Frisch and I wrote a book titled Committee Assignment Politics in the U.S. House of Representatives that was published by the University of Oklahoma Press (2006) in Ron Peters' Congressional Studies Series.  Based on extensive archival data collection and member interviews we present evidence that challenges existing theories of congressional organization. Glen Krutz said Committee Assignment Politics is "a book that even the most senior of legislative scholars will learn from and which I highly recommend to all students and scholars of congressional politics."  The data used in this book are available on my data page or can be  downloaded from the ICPSR web site.

Jimmy Carter and the Water Wars

Our book Jimmy Carter and the Water Wars: Presidential Influence and the Politics of PorkCover of Jimmy Carter and the Water Wars (Cambria Press 2008) explores presidential influence in the context of the battle between Congress and the president over the "power of the purse."  Using unique quantitative data, oral histories, and insider accounts we show how President Carter sought to expand the role of the president in the appropriations process by vetoing a popular appropriations bill.  Despite the popular narrative that surrounds his presidency, we find that Carter's White House ultimately proved to be very effective at influencing the votes of members of Congress and sustaining his veto. Water Wars was chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title by CHOICE, the magazine of the American Library Association.

Cheese Factories on the Moon

Cheese Factories on the Moon CoverScott and I are now engaged in research that extends our work on committee assignments and pork barrel politics by examining the politics of congressional earmarks.  The first product is a provocative volume written for a general audience titled Cheese Factories on the Moon: Why Earmarks are Good for American Democracy in which we argue that earmarks reflect the exceptional design of American political institutions, and American political traditions and culture.  It is based on extensive interviews with Washington and appropriations insiders. Learn more at the Cheese Factories website. Scott and I also blog on the topic of earmarks.

A second book that is currently in progress capitalizes on unique earmark data, and other data, and is aimed at a slightly more academic audience.  Under contract to the University of Michigan Press, the book is tentatively titled Pork: Who Gets What, How, and Why.  Our unique data allow us to draw back the curtain on the appropriations process and develop a better understanding of how congressional earmarks are distributed. With the support of the Dirksen Congressional Center--through a Robert H. Michel Special Projects Grant--we are creating a multimedia web site that will provide dynamic content linked to the book.

Campaigns and Political Marketing

Cover of Campaigns and Political MarketingWith Wayne Steger (DePaul University) and Mark Wrighton (University of Southern Mississippi) I co-edited Campaigns and Political Marketing (Haworth Press, 2006).  These collected essays illustrate how the systematic analysis of political campaigns can produce considerable insight into the electoral process.  Among the contributors for this volume are Lara Brown, Sam Garrett, and Stepen Medvic. Campaigns and Political Marketing was rated "highly recommended" by CHOICE.

Doing Archival Research in Political Science

Doing Archival Research coverAlong with co-editors Scott, Doug Harris (Loyola University of Maryland), David Parker (Montana State University) I have assembled an edited volume (relying on a group of political scientists who use political collections, and archivists) that introduces political scientists to "doing" archival research. It is available from Cambria Press

"Doing Archival Research in Political Science is a determined effort to restore the lost world of those diverse data repositories known as 'the archives'. The effort involves a defense of digging into them, a suggestion of the treasures to be found, and a guide for how to get started. With multiple and disparate examples, the authors seek to add to the methodological armory of political science, while recapturing the context-the enveloping framework, the hidden incentives, the personal motivations-within which political actors actually do what they do."

-- Byron E. Shafer, Hawkins Chair of Political Science, University of Wisconsin


I am engaged in extensive service at CSUCI. I am currently President of the CI Chapter of the California Faculty Asssociation. I serve as a member of several committees including  the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate, and the Student Research Steering Committee. Previously I served as Chair (4 years) of the Professional Leaves Committee, Vice Chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs Advisory Committee (Chair), the Library Advisory Committee, and the Faculty Development Advisory Committee (Chair).

My professional service includes serving on the Executive Committees of the Western Political Science Association and the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC), as Section Chair for Legislative Politics (WPSA 2010), and on the Program Committee for the 2011 ACSC Annual Meeting.  I served on the Editorial Board of the International Encyclopedia of Political Science (CQ Press) and I am the past Editor of the Legislative Studies Section's Extension of Remarks.

Book Series: Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy in America

Book series flierScott Frisch and I are co-editors of a series entitled Politics, Institutions, and Public Policy in America at Cambria Press. Our book series showcases high quality research contributions in political science. We believe that political science is relatively theory-rich and data-poor. As a result we favor studies that break new empirical ground over studies that solely focus on establishing new theoretical ground. We also believe that political science research has the capacity to address contemporary American politics in a way that is accessible to political professionals. Books in this series draw on the many and varied methodological approaches available to researchers without prejudice, but authors must have the capacity to communicate their methods, findings, and study implications to a broad audience. If you are working on a book project that you think might fit into our series contact me at

Contact info: 
Office phone: 805-437-3309
Fax: 805-437-8951
Office: Madera Hall 2364
Address: California State University
One University Drive
Camarillo, CA 93012

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