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Politicized spending by the Executive Branch is of increasing interest to social science scholars, transparency advocates, and lawyers. Beginning in 2010, in response to perceived abuses, Congress instituted an earmark moratorium; however, recent research details how political influence perseveres in the merit-based allocation of taxpayer funds. Unlike federal contracts, however, limited judicial remedies exist for challenging politicization in discretionary spending. A recent piece in the Federalist Society’s Engage details how courts will generally defer to agency determinations concerning spending, thus presenting difficulties for lawyers who seek to challenge political spending decisions in the Executive Branch. Our experts discussed the extent and effect of the political influence on spending and the importance of transparency.

Cause of Action, a government accountability group, also is launching a website detailing the phenomenon of Executive Branch earmarks and the transparency problems that persist. The website is available at

  • Daniel Z. Epstein, Executive Director, Cause of Action
  • Dr. John Hudak, Fellow, Governance Studies and Managing Editor, FixGov Blog, The Brookings Institution

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