Presidents Deliver the Bacon, Too

Pork barrel spending has traditionally been understood as the exclusive domain of Congress. Yet recent presidents are highly engaged in the practice, too, as John Hudak demonstrates in his illuminating new book, Presidential Pork: White House Influence over the Distribution of Federal Grants (Brookings, 2014). In this podcast, Hudak, a fellow in Governance Studies, explains how presidents dole out over $100 billion per year in discretionary federal grants through scores of federal agencies, often in service of improving his electoral prospects.

In one example, Hudak examined why the National Park Service delivered more grants to Pennsylvania than to California, even though the former has fewer residents and fewer federally protected sites. One explanation he offers is that, during the course of his study, Pennsylvania has been a swing state while California has not.


Show notes:

Presidential Pork: White House Influence over the Distribution of Federal Grants
Pork Barrel Politics is Kosher for Presidents too – Except Obama
Live from CPAC: The Most Important Panel Everyone Missed
FixGov blog

Presidential pork is really a choice by Congress. … Presidential pork grows entirely, almost entirely, out of the discretionary authority delegated by Congress to the executive branch.

[Congress] should be pretty angry about this. They shouldn’t see it as a scandal. They should see it as a personal failing, but they won’t. Because earmarks, especially to Republicans, especially to Tea Party Republicans, are still seen as anathema. And that’s a problem. This is Congress’ role to spend, and it’s Congress’ role to dole money out. And if they refuse to do it, if they refuse to engage in this type of behavior, the president is going to do it for them.

John Hudak