Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Money, Power and Motives: Factors That Influence Disaster Declarations

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 2:05 PM
President's Room (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Henry Smart, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
In his book, Presidential Pork, Hudak makes the claim that presidents engage in pork barrel politics (2014).  Hudak (2014) states that presidents manipulate the distribution of federal funds to advance their electoral interests.  The theory of presidential pork might offer some explanation as to how disaster declarations are determined.  As it pertains to disaster declarations, several authors have conducted studies that are in alignment with Hudak’s theory.  Husted (2014) found that a president is more likely to grant disaster declarations when facing reelection, particularly in states with a larger number of electoral votes and in states with a governor from the same political party as the president. Garrett and Russell (2003) found that presidential influences affect the rate of disaster declaration and the allocation of FEMA disaster expenditures.  Moynihan argues that under the Bush Administration, loyalty triumphed over competence, and political goals displaced rationality in decision-making.  While there is solid evidence that supports Moynihan’s argument, the current literature has yet to explore rational factors that might influence disaster declarations. Based on previous research, the process of disaster declaration appears to be politicized.  However, the study of the disaster declaration has been conducted with a limited scope, one that focuses on overt political factors.  What if disaster declaration decisions were influenced by disaster preparedness and mitigation?  This study explores the possibilities of a mixed bag, of both political and aspirational motives, in the granting of disaster declarations.  The data analysis for this study utilizes data from recent presidential elections and preparedness and mitigation program data provided by FEMA.  The findings of this study will expand the scope of exploration of disaster declarations.