Haphazard, Systematic, or Both? An Empirical Investigation of the US Attorney Firings in 2006
In 2006, the Bush administration directed nine US attorneys to resign. This decision was a partial cause of the attorney general’s departure from the administration, and it prompted investigations and congressional hearings. Seen as largely ad hoc, we argue that theory predicts a more systematic decision-making process. We investigate this empirically and find, consistent with literature on principal-agent theories and bureaucracy, that performance on easily monitored metrics and adverse-selection concerns predict the firings. We explore the implications of these findings for efforts to centralize decision-making in the Department of Justice and to exert political control over US attorneys.