Rooting Out Waste, Fraud, and Abuse: The Politics of House Committee Investigations, 1947 to 2004
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Scholars have long bemoaned congressional disinterest in oversight. We explain varied congressional attention tooversight by advancing the contingent oversight theory. We show how the structure of congressional committees,partisan majorities, and theories of delegation together explain when, why, and for how long Congress investigatedexecutive branch malfeasance between 1947 and 2004. Divided government, partisan committees, and committeescharacterized by broad statutory discretion generate more investigations, whereas distributive committees and unifiedgovernment dampen Congress’ investigatory vigor. The conduct of oversight depends on more than a desire to producegood government or the incentive structures faced by individual members of Congress.