Patronage Appointments and Agency Independence

Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

13 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2018

See all articles by Gary Hollibaugh

Gary Hollibaugh

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 26, 2018


When making appointments to bureaucratic positions, Presidents often have to balance various appointee traits, including loyalty, competence, connections, campaign experience, and potential electoral benefit. Previous research has suggested that patronage appointees — often characterized as those individuals appointed because of campaign experience, electoral benefit, or other non-policy political benefits — tend to be placed in low-priority agencies whose missions are ideological matches to the President and in positions where they will have minimal effects on agency outcomes. However, this research has overlooked the role of agency structure and the ease with which appointees can be placed into — or removed from — office. This article focuses on agency decisionmaker independence, or the extent to which agency structure limits the appointment/removal of key agency decision makers. Using data on individuals appointed in the first six months of the Obama administration, I find that Presidents put fewer patronage appointees into agencies whose structural features promote agency decision maker independence.

Keywords: Executive Appointments, Patronage, Agency Independence

JEL Classification: D7, D70, D73

Suggested Citation

Hollibaugh, Gary, Patronage Appointments and Agency Independence (March 26, 2018). Journal of Politics, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Gary Hollibaugh (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science ( email )

2060 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States


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