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Geographic Politics in the U.S. House of Representatives: Coalition Building and Distribution of Benefits

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This article argues that scholars need to consider the structure of House representation to better understand distributive politics. Because House districts (unlike states) are not administrative units in the federal system, House members cannot effectively claim credit for most grant-in-aid funds. Instead, their best credit-claiming opportunities lie in earmarked projects, a small fraction of federal grant dollars. As a consequence, I expect to find: (1) political factors have a much greater effect on the distribution of earmarked projects than on federal funds generally; and (2) project grants are a better support-building tool for coalition leaders than allocations to states. I test this argument with a study of the 1998 reauthorization of surface transportation programs and find strong support for both hypotheses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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