The Effects of Congressional Appropriation Committee Membership on the Distribution of Federal Research Funding to Universities

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In 1994 members of the Republican Party pledged to seek legislation to impose term limits on members of Congress. This pledge stemmed from the popular belief that senior members of Congress tend to promote personal interests or are more influenced by lobbying efforts that may not be representative of their constituents. Today, term limits continue to be discussed but have not been enacted; instead, many members have focused their energies toward minimizing the time spent on any particular committee of Congress, believing that tenure on a committee is a more serious concern than simple tenure in Congress. Implicit in these concerns is the issue whether as incumbent politicians plan to retire they will behave differently and, if so, whether tenure on a congressional committee exacerbates this behavior.

This article explores the role of membership on the appropriations committee on the distribution of federal research funding to universities. Specifically, it explores whether funding is diverted to these universities because politicians use their position on a committee to promote personal or constituent interests. Previous research on shirking compares the voting records of politicians on certain issues with demographic and economic characteristics of the politicians' constituents. This article explores the issue of shirking differently. I explore how membership on congressional appropriations committees affects the distribution of federal research funding to universities. I look at two types of relationships between the members and the universities. First, I consider the relationship between members and the universities that are located in the members' districts (states in the case of senators). Second, I examine the relationship between members and their undergraduate alma mater. I use district representa tion to proxy favoritism that reflects a politician's constituents. Given that in most instances an alma mater affiliation is not the same as district representation, I use alma mater affiliation to proxy favoritism that reflects the politician's personal interests.

Federal research funding accounts for more than 60% of research funding received by research universities. Previous research has shown a positive impact of federal funding on research outcomes; see Adams and Griliches (1998), Arora and Gambardella (1997), Connolly (1997), Payne and Siow (2002), and Payne (2001). Except for Payne and Siow (2002), however, these articles do not consider that political diversion of funds may promote or detract from research productivity as with any other federal program.

This article concentrates on the impact of membership on the House and Senate appropriations committees because they wield the greatest power in the allocation of funding. (1) Using a panel data set spanning 26 years, I explore how changes in the composition of the appropriations committees affects the distribution of research funding after controlling for the heterogeneity that exists across different universities.

The results suggest that both district representation and alma mater affiliation matter. Thus there is evidence of shirking for personal interests and evidence of members representing their constituents. With respect to the representation of one's constituents, the strongest results suggest that public universities benefit from representation on both the Senate and House committees. Private universities, however, only benefit from representation in the Senate. With respect to alma mater affiliations, the results suggest again that public universities benefit from representation on both the Senate and House committees. Private universities also benefit from representation on both the Senate and House committees. The results also suggest that the tenure of the member on the committee matters, as does whether the member is a part of the majority party in power in the congressional chamber. …