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The Politics of Presidential Appointments

The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance

David E. Lewis
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of Presidential Appointments
    Book Description:

    In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many questioned whether the large number of political appointees in the Federal Emergency Management Agency contributed to the agency's poor handling of the catastrophe, ultimately costing hundreds of lives and causing immeasurable pain and suffering.The Politics of Presidential Appointmentsexamines in depth how and why presidents use political appointees and how their choices impact government performance--for better or worse.

    One way presidents can influence the permanent bureaucracy is by filling key posts with people who are sympathetic to their policy goals. But if the president's appointees lack competence and an agency fails in its mission--as with Katrina--the president is accused of employing his friends and allies to the detriment of the public. Through case studies and cutting-edge analysis, David Lewis takes a fascinating look at presidential appointments dating back to the 1960s to learn which jobs went to appointees, which agencies were more likely to have appointees, how the use of appointees varied by administration, and how it affected agency performance. He argues that presidents politicize even when it hurts performance--and often with support from Congress--because they need agencies to be responsive to presidential direction. He shows how agency missions and personnel--and whether they line up with the president's vision--determine which agencies presidents target with appointees, and he sheds new light on the important role patronage plays in appointment decisions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3768-7
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xvii)
  5. 1 Politicization in Theory and Practice (pp. 1-10)

    When Hurricane Katrina ripped into the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, it left 90,000 square miles of devastation in its wake: 1,500 persons dead, hundreds of thousands forced from their homes, 1.6 million persons seeking disaster aid, and more than $80 billion in property damage.¹ In retrospect, the crisis it spawned was almost inevitable. A storm of such severity was sure to cause massive destruction, particularly since it struck an impoverished urban area and affected a region with limited local and state emergency-services capacity. One could only hope that it would not be too severe or widespread, and that...

  6. 2 The Nature and History of the Modern Personnel System (pp. 11-50)

    Few people have heard of Schedule C appointments to the federal service. If queried most would connect a discussion of “Schedule C” to Internal Revenue Service tax forms, but in 1953 the creation of the Schedule C by President Eisenhower was a watershed event in the history of federal personnel management. Eisenhower created this new category of appointments after his inauguration not only in response to pressure from Republican partisans to create more jobs for party members, but also to help rein in the sprawling New Deal bureaucracy created and staffed by presidents Roosevelt and Truman for the previous twenty...

  7. 3 Why, When, and Where Do Presidents Politicize the Bureaucracy? (pp. 51-79)

    In 1999 the U.S. Department of Education was the subject of a scathing exposé by theLos Angeles Times.¹ TheTimesalleged that the department was poorly managed, partly because of the large number of political appointees in the agency. Since its creation in 1979 the Education Department has housed a large and increasing number of political appointments. In 1980 the department had 92 political appointees (compared to 7,321 total employees).² By the end of the Clinton administration, the pool of appointees had grown to 148 (compared to only 4,711 total employees). TheTimesreport cited a number of cases...

  8. 4 The Pattern of Politicization: A Quantitative Overview (pp. 80-102)

    In every election year since 1960, when John F. Kennedy squared off against Richard M. Nixon, the U.S. Congress has publishedPolicy and Supporting Positions. This publication is commonly referred to as the “Plum Book,” both because of its plum-like color and because it includes details about all the “plum” appointed positions in the U.S. government. The document lists every policymaking and confidential position of the federal government subject to appointment. Its publication is eagerly anticipated by campaign workers and other job-seekers hoping to secure employment in the next presidential administration for themselves or their friends. It is also good...

  9. 5 The Pattern of Politicization: A Closer Quantitative Analysis (pp. 103-140)

    In january 2007 President George W. Bush issued an executive order mandating that all departments and large agencies have an office of regulatory policy review headed by a presidential appointee.¹ The purpose of the office is to review and control informal guidance documents issued by agencies. These documents explain how agency rules will be enforced and provide more detail about what regulated parties need to do to comply with regulations. The Bush administration worried that informal guidance was being used by agencies to subvert the intentions of the administration in regulatory enforcement.

    Even though the president’s power was arguably at...

  10. 6 Politicization and Performance: The Case of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (pp. 141-171)

    No case more visibly illustrates the influence of politicization on performance and the importance of this topic than that of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina had dramatic consequences for the lives of disaster victims living on the Gulf Coast. Congressional, academic, and journalistic reviews of the agency’s performance after the event targeted, among other things, the large number of appointees in the agency. They suggested that better leadership and a quicker, coordinated response could have saved hundreds of lives and prevented substantial human suffering.¹ This is not the first time the agency’s...

  11. 7 Politicization and Performance: The Larger Pattern (pp. 172-201)

    The case of FEMA detailed in the previous chapter raises the important question of how political appointments influence management across the U.S. federal government more generally. This chapter examines the influence of appointees on federal management performance in hundreds of cases by analyzing two new datasets that provide different measures of performance. The first dataset is comprised of the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) scores—a numerical measure of program performance—innovated during the George W. Bush administration. The second dataset includes responses from the Federal Human Capital Survey (FHCS), a survey of federal employees that includes questions about employee...

  12. 8 Learning the Lessons of Politicization (pp. 202-220)

    The evidence from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (see chapter 6, above), Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) scores (see the first part of chapter 7, above), and Federal Human Capital Surveys (FHCS) (see the second part of chapter 7, above) demonstrates that politicization hurts performance across the government, sometimes dramatically and to catastrophic effect. Why, then, do presidents add political appointments to departments and agencies when the consequences of doing so appear harmful? The solution to this puzzle is that presidents have to ensure bureaucratic responsiveness and generate support for their candidacy and programs through the distribution of patronage....

  13. Notes (pp. 221-264)
  14. List of Interviews (pp. 265-266)
  15. References (pp. 267-282)
  16. Index (pp. 283-293)