The Defense Lobby and Aid to Egypt

A forthcoming article (non-gated version here) by Lars Berger shows that contributions from defense interests correlate strongly and significantly with the willingness of Congressmen to defeat attempts to reduce military aid to Egypt during the Mubarak era. Here is the abstract:

In February 2011, the dramatic ouster of Hosni Mubarak threw into the spotlight the U.S. policy of granting generous and unconditional aid to the Egyptian regime at a time when the strategic rationale for such aid had become less obvious and calls for inserting human rights considerations into foreign aid allocations more prominent. Focusing on an unprecedented set of roll call votes taken in the U.S. House of Representatives during the years 2004 to 2007, this article offers the first quantitative assessment of the determinants of Congressional support for U.S. economic and military aid for Egypt. It challenges conventional wisdom on the limited role of campaign contributions in Congressional decision making by highlighting the central role of defense lobby contributions in maintaining the Congressional coalition that shielded Egypt’s prerevolutionary regime from increased U.S. pressure in the years leading up to its eventual demise.

This is a very interesting paper, looking at votes to reallocate some of Egyptian military aid to economic aid or causes such as fighting malaria. All proposals had strong within party divisions and they were all defeated.

h/t Kevin Lewis

2 Responses to The Defense Lobby and Aid to Egypt

  1. LFC January 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    interesting.

    re the abstract’s reference to “challeng[ing] conventional wisdom on the limited role of campaign contributions in Congressional decision making” — I don’t think I knew this was the conventional wisdom among political scientists who have looked at this issue. Anyway it appears this article may prompt some rethinking on that.

  2. Tim LaPira January 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    The “conventional wisdom on the limited role of campaign contributions in Congressional decision making” is not that there’s never a correlation, but only that there’s mixed evidence depending on the cases that are selected, and the other variables accounted for. Baumgartner and Leech (1998) covers this well, and frankly I’m surprised that this article doesn’t even consider their now classic warning against a case study-based literature that grows, but doesn’t accumulate.

    So, this article tells us convincingly that defense industry campaign contributions correlates with congressional votes. Four of them. On foreign aid to Egypt. These are telling findings, but they’re limited in scope. I’m skeptical that they can be generalized to all campaign donations and all congressional votes, controlling for other relevant factors. What would happen in these models if there was a variable measuring per capita defense industry jobs per congressional district, like Hall and Wayman (1990) did with the dairy and natural gas industry? And of course, there’s always the endogeneity problem that money from an industry goes to members of Congress with a history of supporting that industry, so a vote favoring it precedes the campaign money. All in all, an interesting article, but let’s not assume the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head.