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Agency policy preferences, congressional letter-marking and the allocation of distributive policy benefits*

  • Russell W. Mills (a1), Nicole Kalaf-Hughes (a2) and Jason A. MacDonald (a3)

When allocating distributive benefits, bureaucrats must balance their own policy preferences with requests from members of Congress. The elimination of earmarking may provide agency personnel with greater discretion in the allocation of distributive benefits. Using a novel data set of congressional letters written in support of their community’s air traffic control towers, we estimate a model that explores the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to issue national interest exemptions to continue operations at towers slated for closure as a result of budget sequestration. Our analysis suggests that members of Congress do not enjoy the influence they possessed under earmarking when using a new method, letter-marking, to influence how agencies distribute benefits.

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Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 2015 Structure of Government (SOG) Conference in Jerusalem, Israel, the 2015 Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting and the 2015 Western Political Science Association annual meeting.

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Journal of Public Policy
  • ISSN: 0143-814X
  • EISSN: 1469-7815
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