Bureaucratic discretion and contracting outcomes

Matthew Boland, David Godsell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We find that federal bureaucrats award more, larger, and less risky contracts to politically connected firms when they have greater discretion over contracting outcomes. Using a sample of 4.3 million federal government contract actions obligating $2.47 trillion between 2000 and 2015, we show that this result varies predictably across contract and agency characteristics, over time, and in placebo tests, and is robust to a comprehensive fixed effect structure and seven alternate measures of political connectedness. Our evidence illustrates the overlooked role of the bureaucrat in facilitating political bias in federal contracting outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101173
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Corporate political activity
  • Government spending
  • Monitoring and control
  • Procurement contracts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Information Systems and Management


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