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The Weak Leviathan? Testing Partisan Theories of Political Influence on Defense Procurement in Congressional Districts: 98th-102nd Congress Boris Shor Harris School of Public Policy Studies University of Chicago January 17, 2006 Recent Headlines

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The Weak Leviathan?Testing Partisan Theories of Political Influence on Defense Procurement in Congressional Districts: 98th-102nd Congress

Boris Shor

Harris School of Public Policy Studies

University of Chicago

January 17, 2006

recent headlines
Recent Headlines
  • The Department of Homeland Security will provide $765 million in direct grants to high-risk urban areas for terrorism preparedness
  • But $550 million still handed out on a formula that has a state minimum
  • And $1.6 billion in grants to local responders at administrative discretion
even after 9 11
Even after 9/11
  • The National Defense Authorization Act was considered 10 days after 9/11.
  • Its amendments included: a transfer of land from DoD to establish the Fort Des Moines Memorial Park and Education Center, improvements to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and alterations to contract arrangements at the US Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle Barracks, PA
  • In the year after 9/11, Alaska benefited from money for fisheries, gyms, parking garages – all located within defense appropriations bills
different reactions
Different Reactions
  • Journalists: It’s pork. Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty
  • Political scientists
    • We’re not sure politicians are able to affect defense procurement
    • If they do, some are better than others
why study defense procurement
Why study defense procurement?

Fiscal Expenditures, 2001

8%

Figures in Billons of 2001 Dollars

Total: $1.8 trillion

why study defense procurement7
Why study defense procurement?
  • If defense procurement is politically influenced, valuable resources are taken away from military readiness or other nondefense uses (Wheeler)
  • Discretion is surprisingly high in procurement
    • “When goods or services to be procured are … relatively uncomplicated, an agency generally advertises for bids … Agencies have little discretion in such cases… However, when the item to be procured is extremely complex—for example, a new weapons system—agencies need not advertise; instead they negotiate… Negotiation gives the agency considerable latitude in matters of choice.” Arnold (1979)
the puzzle
The Puzzle

How well do existing partisan theories of distributive politics explain the geographic distribution of defense procurement between congressional districts?

time period
Time Period
  • 98th-102nd Congresses: 1983-1992
  • Chosen to avoid major redistrictings
  • Republican presidents throughout this time
  • Democratic House
  • Republican Senate 98-99 congress
  • Major defense procurement changes
party and distributive politics
Party and Distributive Politics
  • Do parties matter? Lots of theoretical debate on this point, often revolving around roll call voting and committee representativeness
  • One empirical way to address the question is in the context of distributive politics
  • This is good because dollars are extremely clear as a description of policy and priorities
the negative case against parties
The Negative Case against Parties
  • American elections are individualized affairs
  • Parties may not matter because institutions that mandate competitive contracting and provide post-hoc administrative and judicial review of procurement decisions
    • Mayer 1991
  • Parties may not matter because this is national security
  • Parties may not matter because they are not cohesive enough, or they aren’t large enough
    • “Bureaucrats do not discriminate on the basis of party, because they are interested in building and maintaining large coalitions” – Arnold 1979
how can parties matter
How can parties matter?
  • Majority party status provide privileged access to institutional resources—among other goods—that meet members’ electoral and policy needs (Cox and McCubbins 1993). They are durable coalitions
    • Control of agenda
    • Domination of committees
    • Oversight
  • These advantages over the minority party could influence the flows of federal expenditures
    • Benefits can hold fractious coalitions together
  • Cohesion is important, and it was relatively high in the 1980s (Rohde 1991)
    • Reforms gave more power to the caucus and leadership viz a viz committees
democrats and defense
Democrats and Defense
  • Do Democrats even like defense spending?
    • Maybe not as much as Republicans (though the differences were small)
    • But, given a specified pot of authorized monies, why not distribute to favored constituencies?
  • Defense procurement means a lot to local economies. Obtaining a contract provides lots of jobs.
two recent arguments
Two Recent Arguments
  • Levitt and Snyder (1995)
    • The Democratic party, through its long period of Congressional dominance in the 1960s-1980s, was able to target its constituencies with particularized benefits (social welfare spending)
    • But not its members
  • Rundquist and Carsey (2002)
    • Defense procurement across states
    • States represented by Democrats on the Armed Services committee did better
possible targets of majority influence
Possible Targets of Majority Influence
  • Legislators themselves
    • Alvarez and Saving 1997, Balla 2002
  • Partisan voters
    • Owens and Wade 1984, Levitt and Snyder 1995
  • Majority party members of imp’t committees
    • Goss 1972, Cox and McCubbins 1993, Carsey and Rundquist 1999
  • States
    • Cross-district spillovers
    • delegations as aggregation of individual districts
new data
New Data
  • Relatively unused data set on federal expenditures
    • Expenditure data: CFFR - Consolidated Federal Funds Report
    • More comprehensive than the FAADS data set for certain programs
    • Defense procurement and wages not in FAADS
    • Subcontracting traced to ultimate recipient
modeling strategy
Modeling Strategy
  • Analysis of congressional districts as clustered in space (within states) and time (within Congresses)
  • Integration of predictors at multiple levels of analysis
  • Partial pooling strategy: compromise between complete and no-pooling alternatives
data set
Data Set
  • 435 districts, 98th to 102nd Congresses (1983 to 1992)
  • Explaining (logged, inflation-adjusted) defense procurement expenditures per capita in a CD for a single Congress
  • Things like: ships, bases, hammers, coffeepots
predictors at multiple levels
Predictors at Multiple Levels
  • Individual Level: District-Congress (435x5)
    • District level variables that change in time
    • Partisan, committee, legislator characteristics
  • District Level (435)
    • District level variables that are time-invariant
    • District demographics, district partisanship
  • State-Congress Level (50x5)
    • State level variables that change in time
    • State demographics, congressional delegations, state political variables (Senate and President)
  • State Level Indicators (50)
  • Congress Level Indicators (5)
partisan hypotheses
Partisan Hypotheses
  • H1: Districts represented by Democrats will benefit more than those represented by Republicans
  • H2: Districts with more Democratic voters (proxied by avg pres vote in 84,88) should do better in terms of awards than those with less
  • H3: Democratic members of Armed Services committee should differ from Republicans in providing awards to districts
  • H4: States with House delegations (Senate or House) dominated by the majority party (Democrats) will do better in regards to expenditures
controls
Other Controls

Major Military Installations

DC

Income

Population

State capitol

Coastal

% Urban

State wealth/development

State/district Area

State Population

Political Controls

Districts

Committee membership

Seniority

States

State Presidential election returns

Senate state delegation partisan composition

Controls
individual level equation
Individual Level Equation

District State State-Congress Congress Linear Time Trend District-Congress Error

  • i: District index (1..435)
  • j: State index (1..50)
  • k: State-congress index (1..250)
  • t: Congress index (1..5)
  • y: Estimated spending in a given district-congress it
  • X: matrix of district-congress predictors
  • B: Estimated individual level coefficients
group level equations

District Intercepts

Group Level Equations
  • U: district-level data
  • W: state-congress level data
  • m: estimated district-level predictors
  • p: estimated state-congress-level predictors

State-Congress Intercepts

: indicator for district i (1 to 435)

: indicator for state-congress k (1 to 250)

results summary
Results Summary
  • H1: Districts represented by Democrats will benefit more than those represented by Republicans.
  • H2: Districts with more Democratic voters (proxied by pres. vote) should do better in terms of awards than those with less
  • H3: Democratic members of Armed Services committee should differ from Republicans in providing awards to districts
  • H4: States with House delegations (Senate or House) dominated by the majority party (Democrats) will do better in regards to expenditures.
why are republican voters advantaged
Why are Republican Voters Advantaged?
  • Democratic policy priorities advantaging nondefense spending and disadvantaging defense spending?
  • Presidential influence?
  • Department of Defense?
  • Prime contractors choosing strategic subcontractors?
conclusions
Conclusions
  • New data and model has failed to support existing partisan hypotheses in the distributive politics literature
  • Parties affect defense procurement, but in a counterintuitive way: by rewarding Republican districts
  • Arnold 1979: “There are significant differences between various types of government benefits, even within … ‘distributive policies.’”