Redressing Politicized Spending

Engage Volume 15, Issue 1 February 2014

March 25, 2014

Daniel Z. Epstein

Read the full piece: Federalist Society

In 2007, the Bush White House sent senior political officials to brief political appointees in federal agencies on how they could help steer federal funds to favor Republican congressional candidates. In 2010, the Obama White House had direct involvement in shaping the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Program Office’s loan and loan guarantee funding decisions.
These are not isolated anecdotes. They characterize a body of empirical evidence demonstrating that federal agencies’ discretionary spending and other decisions are susceptible to capture by the political interests of Congress and especially the President. Politicized spending undermines transparency and the “level playing field” needed to maintain public trust and confidence in government. Furthermore, large-scale discretionary spending without an effective independent check on the government’s ability to steer discretionary funds to favored firms, organizations, and individuals corrodes the foundations of any system based on principles of limited and accountable government.