Merit or Marionettes? An Analysis of Decision-Making and the Political Control of Federal Project Grant Awards

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Jordan T. Long, Benjamin M. Brunjes

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Published

Published: 19 October 2023 | Article Type : Research Article

Abstract

Project grants, which are designated to fund a particular program or initiative, are supposed to be awarded based on the technical merit of the grant application. However, public administrators are commonly influenced by political priorities. We ask whether administrators prioritize merit or political objectives when awarding project grants. We identify three decision-making processes used to award project grants: political, administrative, and exported. Then, using data from eight U.S. federal grant programs from 2008 – 2015, we analyze whether grants using each of these decision-making processes show signs of political influence. We find evidence that grants using either political or administrative forms of decision-making are susceptible to legislative priorities. Grants awarded by third-party experts show no evidence of political influence. We conclude that political factors are important for the allocation of project grants, offering insights into the interdependent relationship between legislators and administrators.

Keywords: Decision-Making, Politics, Grants, Contracts, Pork Barrel Politics, Federalism, Political Control, Bureaucratic Politics, Public Administration.

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Research Article

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Citation:

Jordan T. Long, Benjamin M. Brunjes. (2023-10-19). "Merit or Marionettes? An Analysis of Decision-Making and the Political Control of Federal Project Grant Awards." *Volume 5*, 1, 42-57