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New study by Kaplan, Boone, and Dube featured in the Seattle Times

No evidence of corruption in the distribution of discretionary funds from the 2009 stimulus bill

Neither Democrats nor Republicans exploited their positions of power within Congress to get unfair financial advantage for their supporters from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a new Brookings Institution paper by MPRC Faculty Associate Ethan Kaplan and co-authors Christopher Boone and Arindrajit Dube. The three economists examined the $308 billion dollars in discretionary spending that was part of the stimulus bill, and broke down the stimulus money by congressional district to see whether there was evidence of undue political influence. They found that neither party sent more money to swing districts where they might gain an electoral advantage. They also found no evidence that Congress members in positions of particular influence (such as committee leaders or potential “swing voters”) received more funds than others.

Boone, Dube, and Kaplan did find a large variation in the amount of funding across districts, with the district of Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) receiving over five hundred times as much as that of former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Districts with higher poverty rates received slightly more in stimulus dollars than other districts, but those with higher levels of unemployment actually received less.

The authors attribute the results of the study to the gradual development of rules governing the distribution of federal funds which prevent more powerful legislators from taking unfair advantage. But they argue that policymakers should be proactive in taking steps to improve the rules in order to distribute money more effectively in the future.

Read the Seattle Times story

Read about the study at the Brookings Institution

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