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Victor, Spoils, Etc.

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Jowei Chen, via Monkey Cage:

In the aftermath of the summer 2004 Florida hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) distributed $1.2 billion in disaster aid to Florida residents. This research presents two empirical findings that collectively suggest the Bush administration engaged in vote buying behavior. First, by tracking the geographic location of each aid recipient, the data reveal that FEMA treated applicants from Republican neighborhoods much more favorably than those from Democratic or moderate neighborhoods, even conditioning on hurricane severity, home value, and demographic factors. Second, I compare precinct-level vote counts from the post-hurricane (November 2004) and pre-hurricane (November 2002) elections to measure the effect of FEMA aid on Bush’s vote share. Using a two-stage least squares estimator, this analysis reveals that core Republican voters are easily swayed by FEMA aid – $16,800 buys one additional vote for Bush – while Democrats and moderates are not. Collectively, these results suggest the Bush administration maximized its 2004 vote share by concentrating FEMA disaster aid among core Republicans.

Lots of interesting implications; of course, it’s hardly surprising that administrations (Republican or Democrat) funnel the benefits gained by controlling federal agencies to their own followers. As in Florida, such benefits play both a “Thank You!” and a “Remember me at the polls” roll.

Given that the administration turned FEMA into a well-oiled patronage machine (both internally and externally), you have to wonder at how it reacted to Katrina. Specifically, I wonder whether anyone in a meeting actually made the point that “these folks don’t vote Republican, ain’t gonna vote Republican”, or whether the patronage machine was so well designed to render that statement superfluous.

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