Presidential Pork

White House Influence over the Distribution of Federal Grants

In Presidential Pork, John Hudak explains and interprets presidential efforts to control federal spending and accumulate electoral rewards from that power. Certainly, presidential porkbarrel spending does not garner as much attention as projects that members of Congress secure for their constituents. Robert Byrd, for example, was renowned for his prowess at bringing federal dollars to his home state of West Virginia, and 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 porkbarrel spending in a comprehensive and systematic way to advance their electoral interests. It will come as no surprise that presidents target the federal largesse toward "swing states," where the electoral stakes are highest. The White House often influences the enormous federal bureaucracy to spend funds in states that are "in play," and this capacity cannot be matched by challengers. 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 dissects the mechanisms and techniques presidents employ in order to make federal agencies responsive to his or her needs. Hudak reveals not only what White Houses have done in distributing presidential pork, but also how they go about it. The result is an illuminating and highly original take on presidential power and public policy.


Praise for Presidential Pork:

Presidents play Congress’ game and win.  Presidential Pork clearly demonstrates that presidents are as willing as Members of Congress to pilfer the pork barrel and claim credit for public projects.  Hudak’s book helps us reimagine the president as a strategic electoral player, intent on using public funds through the organization and authority of the executive office to gain an electoral foothold." —Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston

Presidential Pork offers a fascinating look at past presidents and an intriguing look into the current president. It is not too early to start asking how history will judge this president. Is he the power hungry despot that Republicans are demonizing? Or is he the inept manager Democrats are quietly groaning about who can’t even use the power of the presidency? Hudak’s sequel to this story should be as interesting as this book." —Elaine C. Kamarck, Founding Director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution. As a senior staffer in the White House she created the National Performance Review, the largest government reform effort in the last half of the twentieth century.

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