Congressional Staff Influence on Earmarks
Authors:Sandy Garcia, Keely Laurie, Jana Plat
Mentor:Sean Kelly, Associate Professor of Political Science , California State University Channel Islands
Despite the vast earmarks research done throughout the years, not much is known about the influence of subcommittee staff on the granting of congressional appropriations earmarks. The objective of our study is to explain the question: who receives earmarks, and why? We examine the role of electoral vulnerability, seniority status, Appropriations Committee membership and leadership, as well as the influence of staff. This research is important because very little attention has been paid to the relationship between the distribution of earmarks and the subcommittee staff. To test these conjectures, we used earmark request data acquired by Professors Scott Frisch and Sean Kelly from the archived papers of a former member of Congress. Combined with data about earmarks that were included in the Appropriations bill, which is publically available, we are able to determine which members of Congress made requests, and which requests were successful and unsuccessful. We found that earmarks recommended by staff were more likely to pass into law than those not recommended by staff. Our findings support previous research regarding the relationships between earmarks and electoral vulnerability, seniority status, Appropriations Committee membership and leadership. Our research suggests, however, that staff is an important piece of the puzzle that has been over-looked by students of earmarks thus far.