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Presidential Pork

White House Influence over the Distribution of Federal Grants

John Hudak

Publication Year: 2014

Presidential earmarks? Perhaps even more so than their counterparts in Congress, presidents have the motive and the means to politicize spending for political power. But do they?

In Presidential Pork, John Hudak explains and interprets presidential efforts to control federal spending and accumulate electoral rewards for that power.

The projects that members of Congress secure for their constituents certainly attract attention. Political pundits still chuckle about the "Bridge to Nowhere." But Hudak clearly illustrates that while Congress claims credit for earmarks and pet projects, the practice is alive and well in the White House, too.

More than any representative or senator, presidents engage in pork barrel spending in a comprehensive and systematic way to advance their electoral interests. It will come as no surprise that the White House often steers the enormous federal bureaucracy to spend funds in swing states. It is a major advantage that only incumbents enjoy.

Hudak reconceptualizes the way in which we view the U.S. presidency and the goals and behaviors of those who hold the nation's highest office. He illustrates that presidents and their White Houses are indeed complicit in distributing presidential pork—and how they do it. The result is an illuminating and highly original take on presidential power and public policy.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

I could probably double the size of this work if I devoted the space necessary to those who deserved an acknowledgment. I realize that at every stage of my life and my career I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and those around me. A force in American politics for whom I have the greatest...

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pp. 1-10

In late 2008 and early 2009, the United States rapidly entered a profound economic recession. In concert with Congress, the Bush and Obama administrations crafted legislation intended to stem economic losses and restart the economy on a path toward growth, employment, and stability...

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2: Spending Power and the Election-Driven President

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pp. 11-31

The president derives little if any spending authority from the U.S. Constitution. In fact, Article I specifically empowers Congress to appropriate funds, and scholars often note that the legislative branch has “the power of the purse.” However, each year Congress delegates spending authority to...

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3: Pork Barrel Politics at the Presidential Level

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pp. 32-67

Between October 8 and October 14, 2004, presidential appointees in the U.S. Department of Energy, including Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, scheduled and attended ceremonies announcing nearly $300 million in alternative energy grants. Much of that money came from the Power...

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4: Aiding and Abetting the President: The Role of Federal Agencies

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pp. 68-107

In the quotation that opens this chapter, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) refers explicitly to a battle that is constantly being waged between the executive and legislative branches of government regarding which one controls public policy. Inhofe defends the power of Congress to direct federal agencies...

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5: Presidential Motives in the Shadow of Crisis

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pp. 108-132

The media often focus on federal spending, producing numerous articles on deficits, debt ceilings, and annual budgets. However, early in 2009, a single federal spending bill dominated media, politics, and everyday conversation as President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass his economic...

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6: A Web of Bureaucratic Control

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pp. 133-152

Electoral interests drive presidents to influence the distribution of federal funds. Whether that influence involves targeting funds to swing states or advancing electorally strategic policy goals, presidents seek to get the most out of federal funding allocations. In addition, distributors—executive...

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7: The Mechanisms of Presidential Spending Power

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pp. 153-188

In the regular administration of public policy, the bureaucratic process is difficult to understand and navigate. When politics enters policymaking, the process becomes even more opaque. For personal, reputational, and often legal reasons, political officials have an interest in keeping private the details...

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8: Conclusions and Implications

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pp. 189-204

Presidents are election-driven individuals who use the formal and informal tools of their office to advance their electoral interests. They engage in a basic, strategic, and widely used behavior among elected officials: pork barrel politics. Presidents wield extensive spending authority and direct federal dollars...


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pp. 205-214


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pp. 215-222

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815725213
E-ISBN-10: 0815725213
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815725206
Print-ISBN-10: 0815725205

Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 870892794
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Presidential Pork

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Grants-in-aid -- United States.
  • Executive power -- United States.
  • United States -- Appropriations and expenditures.
  • Government spending policy -- United States.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Decision making.
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