Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Agency Performance Challenges and Agency Politicization

41 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 13 May 2017

Abby K. Wood

USC Gould School of Law

David E. Lewis

Vanderbilt University - Department of Political Science; Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: April 13, 2017


In this paper we evaluate the relationship between political control and bureaucratic performance using information requested by researchers via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and congress via congressional committee requests. The information requested was the same, and the timing of requests was similar. We find modest evidence of a relationship between agency politicization and a lack of responsiveness to requests for information from the public and Congress. Politicized agencies are slower to respond to requests even when controlling for agency size and workload. There is little evidence, however, that these agencies are more likely to respond poorly when they do respond. The difficulties in responding appear to be due to poor performance of the FOIA offices, either because political actors focus more on other agency activities or because of poorer management agency-wide. We conclude that efforts to make agencies responsive to elected officials may hurt management performance.

Keywords: Freedom of Information, public administration, agency performance, political control of bureaucracy

JEL Classification: H11, H83

Suggested Citation

Wood, Abby K. and Lewis, David E., Agency Performance Challenges and Agency Politicization (April 13, 2017). USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 15-30; USC CLASS Research Series No. CLASS15-28. Available at SSRN: or

Abby K. Wood (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States


David E. Lewis

Vanderbilt University - Department of Political Science ( email )

VU Station B #351817
Nashville, TN 37235-1817
United States
615-322-6222 (Phone)

Vanderbilt University - Law School

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views