Partisan Procurement. Contracting with the United States Federal Government

Dahlström, C., Fazekas, M, & Lewis, D. E., (2020), Partisan Procurement. Contracting with the United States Federal Government, 2003–2015, American Journal of Political Science. Available online:

The U.S. federal government spends huge sums buying goods and services from outside of the public sector. Given the sums involved, strategic government purchasing can have electoral consequences. In this article, we suggest that more politicized agencies show favoritism to businesses in key electoral constituencies and to firms connected to political parties. We evaluate these claims using new data on U.S. government contracts from 2003 to 2015. We find that executive departments, particularly more politicized department‐wide offices, are the most likely to have contracts characterized by noncompetitive procedures and outcomes, indicating favoritism. Politically responsive agencies—but only those—give out more noncompetitive contracts in battleground states. We also observe greater turnover in firms receiving government contracts after a party change in the White House, but only in the more politicized agencies. We conclude that agency designs that limit appointee representation in procurement decisions reduce political favoritism.

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