Naïve Cronyism and Neutral Competence: Patronage, Performance, and Policy Agreement in Executive Appointments
Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Vol. 25, Issue 2, pp. 341-372, 2015
45 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2014 Last revised: 4 Jan 2016
Date Written: 2015
Much of the bureaucratic literature suggests that, when staffing the bureaucracy, executives want agents who are both responsive to their political needs and possess the competence needed to fulfill their directives. However, institutional barriers — such as the requirement for legislative confirmation — exist that may make pursuing a strategy of responsive competence difficult, if not impossible. Here, I examine a model of bureaucratic appointments that allows for informationally imperfect agencies. I show that when legislative assent is required, tradeoffs between ideology and either patronage or agency performance — or both — are often required to ensure legislative confirmation. The same dynamics are not present for unilateral appointments. Finally, using a dataset that incorporates the ideologies of federal program managers, the performance of federal programs, and whether program managers were patronage appointees, I conduct a series of empirical tests that support the model’s predictions.
Keywords: appointments, bureaucracy, presidency, executive agencies
JEL Classification: D7, D70, D73
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation