Politicizing agency spending authority: Lessons from a Bush-era scandal

Sanford C. Gordon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    When can presidents direct bureaucrats to allocate government expenditures for electoral purposes? To address this question, I exploit a scandal concerning the General Services Administration (GSA), an agency that contracts with private vendors to provide supplies and real estate to other agencies. Shortly after Republican losses in 2006, a White House deputy gave a presentation to GSA political appointees identifying potentially vulnerable congressional districts. I find that vendors in prioritized Republican districts experienced unusually large new contract actions from the GSA's Public Buildings Service following the presentation relative to unmentioned districts, a discrepancy that disappeared once the Washington Post broke the story. Contracts supervised by the agency's Federal Acquisition Service, by contrast, were largely unresponsive to the briefing and media scrutiny. My findings suggest that the extent to which executives succeed in politicizing discretionary allocation decisions depends upon key features of the implementing agency's tasks and its informational environment.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)717-734
    Number of pages18
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 2011

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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