Ideology and distributive benefits: Ideological and district influences on the distribution of federal spending
Wilk, Eric M.
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This study examines how federal dollars are distributed to individual congressional districts by taking a positive rational choice approach. In a more general context, it also examines ideological, partisan, and district influences on legislative behavior. First, the extent to which the partisan theory of legislative behavior explains variation in distributive benefits is examined. This fits into the legislative cartel theory developed by Cox and McCubbins (1993) who found that that party leaders are able to promote party loyalty by using the distribution of committee assignments as an incentive. The results indicate that the cartel theory does apply to the distribution of federal dollars although the relationship is conditional upon fiscal ideology. Likewise, it is fiscal ideology, and not majority party status, that has a significant influence on the distribution of pork. This supports the claim that incumbents who campaign on themes of fiscal restraint disarm themselves from claiming credit for securing federal dollars for their district (Sellers 1997). Finally, the study also reveals a more general finding – that the relationship between median district income and legislative behavior (measured using DW-NOMINATE) is an indirect one which is mediated by district partisanship. Failing to account for district partisanship when attempting to explain variation in DW-NOMINATE results in an omitted variable bias.