Measuring Contract Patronage in U. S. Federal Government Contract Markets – An Exploratory Analysis
29 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2022
Date Written: May 24, 2022
Combining data on federal contract awards by agency and location, agency attributes, and the political dynamics at play over the course of a twenty-year panel, we model the relative change in contract awards within and across states as a function of the three-dimensional relationship among Senators, presidents, and agencies through partisan and ideological alignment. We seek evidence of the potential mechanisms of contracts-as-patronage. We define “contract patronage” as the extent to which a contract agent is selected on a basis beyond the operational exigencies of the principal. We find evidence that contract patronage takes place contingent upon the ideological alignment among presidents, Senators, and awarding agencies. Federal contract markets tend to see overall change based on Senatorial representation except when the president is in the representing Senator’s party. Also, changes in state contract markets are contingent on the ideological orientation of the agency. Those markets represented by Republican (Democrat) Senators see a relative increase (decrease) in contract change for liberal (conservative) agencies under conditions of a copartisan presidency. In terms of a president’s managerial influence, we find that the layering of unilateral appointees through the managerial and executive ranks of an organization (i.e., “politicization”) has an impact on contract decision-making within state markets when the president is copartisan to the representative Senator. These effects are also contingent upon the relative ideological orientation of the agency vis-à-vis the focal Senator and the president.
Keywords: federal contracting, patronage, separation of powers, politicization
JEL Classification: H10,H11,H83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation