The Wilson Quarterly

If you’re a state governor with a hankering for a bigger slice of the federal procurement pie, a recent study may point the ­way.

First, make sure your state is big. “Bigger states get discernibly more procurement per capita,” says Andrew J. Taylor, a North Carolina State University political scientist who analyzed procurement contracts from 1984 to 2004. Bigger states have more votes in the Electoral Col­lege, electoral votes help presi­dents get elected (or reelected), and, Taylor points out, “the president and his administration can influence the distribution of procurement contracts greatly.” Most of these contracts “are undertaken with the Department of Defense,” he adds.

Second, get your people onto a congressional committee. You will see a modest return even if it’s just in the House of Representatives, but, Taylor says, “adding a senator to a state’s delegation on Appropriations is worth about $42 per capita in procurement spending; to Armed Services it is worth about $77.” That’s no small change if your state has as many people as, say, California. Bonus bucks if your legislator is a member of the party in ­power.

Third, and this may be the trickiest to pull off, convince your constituents to vote against the sitting president’s reelection. Though it may seem counterintuitive, Taylor reports that “states that gave the president less of their popular vote in his reelec­tion received signifi­cantly more pro­cure­ment dollars per capita in his second term.” Why? Stressing that his theory is “highly speculative,” Taylor thinks the answer may have to do with the peculiar nature of lame-duck politics. Second-­term presidents may steer federal dollars toward particular states to “buy legislative ­votes—­rather than popular ­ones—­in support of their agenda.” Legislators from states that didn't support the president are “predisposed to oppose the administration,” which may make them all the more receptive to procurement pres­sure. They will support the ­president—­in re­turn for those lucrative ­con­tracts—­and still reap all the credit from the voters they represent. More pork, ­anyone?

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The Source: "The Presidential Pork Barrel and the Conditioning Effect of Term" by Andrew J. Taylor, in Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2008. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Bill Kramme

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