Executive Control vs. Bureaucratic Insulation: Evidence from Federal Contracting
42 Pages Posted: 25 May 2010 Last revised: 22 Jun 2010
Date Written: May 14, 2010
I exploit a 2007 scandal concerning the General Services Administration (GSA) to examine whether executives can alter the bureaucratic allocation of government expenditures for electoral purposes. The GSA contracts with private vendors to provide supplies to, and acquire and maintain buildings for, other agencies. Shortly after Republican electoral losses in 2006, a White House Deputy gave a presentation to GSA political appointees identifying potentially vulnerable congressional districts. I find that vendors in mentioned Republican districts experienced unusually high contract expenditures from the GSA's Public Buildings Service following the presentation relative to unmentioned districts. This discrepancy diminished following media coverage of the scandal. I find no effect of either the presentation or media coverage on contracts signed by the agency's Federal Supply Service. Differences between the two branches suggest the extent to which the nature of an agency's tasks and constraints on its discretion can mitigate executive efforts to politicize.
Keywords: Politicization, President, Bureaucracy, Contracting, Differences-in-Differences
JEL Classification: D72, D73
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation