NOTE: The next deadline for applications is April 1 of the current year. Grants will be announced by May 15.
The Dirksen Congressional Center invites applications for grants to fund research on congressional leadership and the U.S. Congress. The Center, named for the late Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen, is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization devoted to the study of Congress. Since 1978, the Congressional Research Grants program has invested more than $998,026 to support over 451 projects. Applications are accepted at any time, but the deadline is April 1 for the annual selections, which are announced in May.
The Center has allocated up to $50,000 in 2016 for grants with individual awards capped at $3,500.
Who is qualified to apply?
The competition is open to individuals with a serious interest in studying Congress. Political scientists, historians, biographers, scholars of public administration or American studies, and journalists are among those eligible. The Center encourages graduate students who have successfully defended their dissertation prospectus to apply and awards a significant portion of the funds for dissertation research. Applicants must be U.S. citizens who reside in the United States.
The grants program does not fund undergraduate or pre-Ph.D. study. Organizations are not eligible. Research teams of two or more individuals are eligible. No institutional overhead or indirect costs may be claimed against a Congressional Research Grant.
What kind of research projects are eligible for consideration?
The Center’s first interest is to fund the study of the leadership in the Congress, both House and Senate. Topics could include external factors shaping the exercise of congressional leadership, institutional conditions affecting it, resources and techniques used by leaders, or the prospects for change or continuity in the patterns of leadership. In addition, The Center invites proposals about congressional procedures, such as committee operation or mechanisms for institutional change, and Congress and the electoral process.
The Center also encourages proposals that link Congress and congressional leadership with the creation, implementation, and oversight of public policy. Proposals must demonstrate that Congress, not the specific policy, is the central research interest.
The Center does NOT require grant recipients to use historical materials in its collections. For persons interested in such research, however, please visit http://www.dirksencenter.org/print_collections_overview.htm for information about our holdings.
The research for which assistance is sought must be original, culminating in new findings or new interpretation, or both. The grants program was developed to support work intended for publication in some form or for application in a teaching or policy-making setting. Research produced by previous grant recipients has resulted in books, papers, articles, course lectures, videotapes, and computer software.
What could a Congressional Research Grant pay for?
Generally speaking, a grant can cover almost any aspect of a qualified research project, such as travel to conduct research, duplication of research material, purchase of data sets, and costs of clerical, secretarial, research, or transcription assistance. This list is merely illustrative. Specifically excluded from funding are the purchase of equipment, tuition support, salary support for the principal investigator(s), indirect costs or institutional overhead, travel to professional meetings, and publication subsidies.
Grants range from a few hundred dollars to $3,500. Stipends will be awarded to individuals (not organizations) on a competitive basis. Grants will normally extend for one year. In some circumstances, the Center will make more than one grant to a single individual in consecutive years, but not more than three grants to the same person in a five-year period.
The Internal Revenue Service requires The Center to report disbursements of more than $600 to individuals. Accordingly, we file a 1099-MISC reporting grant payments. If potential recipients prefer to have payments made to a university foundation on their behalf, they must submit with their proposal a letter from the responsible official stipulating that no indirect or overhead costs will be charged against the grant. In other words, the entire amount must be paid out to the individual.
Download the Word document -- Congressional Research Grant Application -- and complete the required entries. You may send the application as a Word or pdf attachment to an e-mail directed to Frank Mackaman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please insert the following in the Subject Line: “CRG Application [insert your surname].” Thank you.
The Congressional Research Grant Application contains the following elements:
Congressional Research Grant Project Description. A description of the project's goals, methods, and intended results demonstrating clearly its importance to the grants program priorities. This is the most essential element of the application. Be sure to explain the project's significance and relationship to existing scholarship. Recommended length: five pages.
Budget. Indicate how funds will be spent and the extent of matching funds available, if any. Recommended length: one-half page.
Curriculum Vita. The vita or resume should not exceed two pages.
Reference Letter. Graduate students (those who have successfully defended their dissertation proposal) must arrange for a letter of reference from the person directing their dissertation work. The letter should be sent on institutional letterhead as a signed pdf attachment to Frank Mackaman at email@example.com. Length not to exceed one page—additional pages will not be forwarded to the judges.
Overhead Waiver Letter. If potential recipients prefer to have payments made to an institutional entity on their behalf, they must submit with their proposal a letter from the responsible official stipulating that no indirect or overhead costs will be charged against the grant. In other words, the entire amount must be paid out to the individual. The Overhead Waiver Letter should be sent on institutional letterhead as a signed pdf attachment to Frank Mackaman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMPORTANT: The entire application when printed must NOT exceed ten pages. Applications may be single-spaced. Please use fonts no smaller than 10-point. This total does NOT include the reference letter (one additional page) or the Overhead Waiver Letter (one additional page).
When is the deadline?
All application materials must be received on or before April 1 of the current year. Grants will be announced in May.
How are recipients selected?
Proposals are judged by the significance of the research project; the project's design, plan of work, and dissemination; the applicant's qualifications; the relationship of the project to The Center's program goals and to current work in the field; and, the appropriateness of the budget request for the project's requirements.
Grant recipients agree to...
Acknowledge the support given by The Dirksen Congressional Center wherever material is published or presented.
IMPORTANT. Provide an “Impact Statement” after one year describing how the grant was spent and evaluating the impact of the research project. This 350-500 word statement will be posted on The Center's Web site.
Furnish The Center with a copy of any book, article, or other publication incorporating research made possible by the grant.
Cooperate in periodic studies conducted by The Center to evaluate the grants program. This may include writing summaries of research findings for use in other Center publications.
Permit publication of the research abstract in print and electronic formats.
Call, write, or e-mail
Frank H. Mackaman
The Dirksen Congressional Center
Pekin, IL 61554-4219 USA
(309) 347-7113 (309) 347-7113
(309) 347-6432 FAX
Grant Recipients, 2015
C. Arthur Damien, Department of Political Science, Marshall University
“The Constitutional Fight for the Power of the Purse: Robert C. Byrd’s Entrepreneurial Defeat of the Presidential Line Item Veto”
Emphasizing his leadership and influence on the Senate Appropriations Committee (1989–2009), this project explores Robert C. Byrd’s entrepreneurial fight to eradicate the presidential Line-Item Veto. Using the latent data in the archives at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies to construct an empirical assessment, this project demonstrates Byrd’s leadership in limiting what he perceived as a constitutional dereliction and the infelicitous expansion of presidential authority within budgetary power. This research offers insight into the study of the resources, techniques, and institutional conditions of senatorial entrepreneurship.
Daryl A. Carter, Department of History, East Tennessee State University
“Civility & Character: Sen. Howard H. Baker, Jr. and The Rise of the Republican Party”
This book-length project examines the political career of Senator Howard Baker and his contributions to the rise of the Republican Party in Tennessee and the United States over the past fifty years. Most historians have ignored Baker, instead preferring to study Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority, evangelicals, busing, and desegregation. But Baker was the son of a congressman, the son-in-law of Senator Everett Dirksen, and preceded Ronald Reagan’s initial campaign for public office by two years. While he made attempts at the presidency several times before 1980, Baker had been an active figure in the GOP for longer and had been more important in terms of influence over the direction of GOP. So this work moves beyond stale narratives of his role in the Watergate investigations and proceeds to examine his leadership within the GOP on issues ranging from taxes to clean air to clean water to conservatism, and to governance. Moreover, it places Baker at the vanguard of the Republican resurgence in the United States. Further, this work specially examines Baker’s time as Senate Republican Leader from 1977-1985, and thereby demonstrates Baker’s importance in the Congress and the nation.
James M. Curry, Department of Political Science, University of Utah
“Knowledge, Expertise, and Committee Power in Congress”
Most scholarship advances rules-oriented explanations for the power of committees in Congress, emphasizing their abilities to propose legislation, act as gatekeepers, and exercise an ex-post veto. However, evolution in congressional processes since the 1980s challenges the accuracy of these explanations. This project promotes an alternate explanation of committee power stemming from the superior knowledge and expertise committees and their members have over their issues and their legislation.
*Jennifer R. Garcia, Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvine
“From Protest to Policymaking: Black Legislative Strategies in the Post-War Era”
Rooted in the congressional scholarship on legislative behavior and race scholarship on the substantive benefits of descriptive representation, this dissertation looks at the legislative strategies of black members of Congress. More particularly, I consider the factors that shape these strategies, how they have changed overtime, and the effect that they have on black substantive representation in the U.S. I develop a theory of black legislative behavior which asserts that black legislative strategies shift from one of protesting to one of policymaking in response to (1) black presence in Congress, (2) policy status quo, and (3) positions of key veto players.
Douglas B. Harris, Department of Political Science, Loyola University Maryland
“The Public Congressional Leadership of Senate Democratic Leader George Mitchell”
This project examines Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell’s (D-Maine) use of mass media and public opinion strategies and tactics to build legislative coalitions in the Senate. Using archives (Mitchell’s papers at Bowdoin College are newly opened for research) to document Mitchell’s structural innovations in the party leadership apparatus and his own behavioral adaptations to the expectations of this new public role, this project offers a first opportunity to compare public congressional leadership in the Senate to the better understood and more studied practice of public leadership in the House of Representatives.
Frank L. Jones, Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College
“Power and Prerogative: The Political Leadership of Senator Sam Nunn”
This project examines Senator Sam Nunn’s leadership on the Senate Armed Services Committee during the Cold War and its aftermath with particular attention to his role in shaping and developing U.S. national security policy. It serves as a necessary corrective for the tendency among scholars to focus almost exclusively on the executive branch in the making of American foreign policy and to ignore the importance of legislators in this regard. Nunn’s career provides insights into how a congressional leader can set the policy agenda and shape policy by using the institution’s constitutional powers, legislating, shaping elite and public opinion, and diplomacy.
Nicole Kalaf-Hughes and Russell W. Mills, Department of Political Science, Bowling Green State University
“Vegan Pork: Congressional Letter-marking and the Allocation of Distributive Benefits”
The ban on earmarks in Congress has given rise to the practice of letter-marking, occurring when members of Congress ask agency heads to retain or allocate projects with distributive benefits in their district. This research expands the authors’ previous theoretical and empirical work on letter-marking by conducting qualitative interviews with Congressional staff, Appropriations committee staff, and agency legislative affairs officials to gain insight into the motivation and process by which members of Congress engage in letter-marking. Furthermore, the authors will submit FOIA requests to agencies to gain access to additional letters written in support of projects in member districts.
*Edward D. Lee, Department of Physics, Cornell University
“Power of moderation: The influence of the center voters in US Congress”
We will use a statistical inference method, called the Boltzmann machine, to model congressional voting and to measure the influence of center voters from 1993 until the present day. The Boltzmann machine has been used to model collective behavior in biological systems like neurons, birds, and monkeys. Here, we will use it to build accurate, quantitative models of voting for different congressional sessions to explore how the center bloc has changed and how those changes have impacted the pattern of decision making in Congress.
*Jonathan Lewallen, Government Department, University of Texas-Austin
“You Better Find Something to Do: Congressional Policymaking in a Centralized Era”
The U.S. Congress has significantly curtailed its lawmaking activities in recent years. Whereas Woodrow Wilson once wrote that Congress aims to have "laws always a-making," deadline-driven dealmaking and stopgap measures have come to characterize contemporary legislative politics. This project traces the roots of the decline in congressional lawmaking to the committees. While current and former members of Congress, commentators, and other observers attribute this trend to political gridlock and an expanding executive branch, this project uses quantitative data from 1973-2014 to highlight the role of centralized, party leader-driven agenda-setting and changes to committee legislative authority.
*Geoffrey Miles Lorenz, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan
“Committee Chairs’ Priorities, Interest Group Influence, and Congressional Committee Agenda-Setting”
Do committee chairs still matter in the post-reform Congress? This project connects committee leadership and interest group influence to legislative committee agenda-setting. With the exception of "must-pass" bills or bills handed down from party leadership, committee chairmen have discretion in which bills referred to their committee to set for hearing and which to not. This project first hypothesizes that committee chairs manipulate their committee's discretionary agenda to advance their personal goals. Second, it investigates whether this behavior leads those interest groups who share the within-issue policy preferences and the across-issue policy priorities to attain more desirable committee outcomes.
*Adam Olson, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota
“Conflict, Consensus, and Opportunity: Congress and the Development of the American Welfare State”
Recent research has shown that the United States relies on a combination of policy tools to provide social policy yet no one has developed a causal account of how or why Congress decides to use a given tool at a given time. This dissertation examines how conflict (or consensus) among different interests, as represented in Congress, against a backdrop of changing institutional constraints dictates which sort of social policy is created or expanded. Ultimately, using a theoretically integrative and historically oriented approach, this dissertation finds that changes in political conflict and legislative opportunity produce changes in the American welfare state.
Mark Owens, Department of Politics, Bates College
“Coordinating Legislative Action and the Substance of Legislation in the U.S. Senate, 1937-1977”
When legislation is considered, party leaders in the U.S. Senate must balance the diverse political motivations their colleagues. Through archival research, I examine how legislators communicate their concerns about the substance of legislation off the floor. By providing detailed examples, this project supports new theories of how legislators pursue their policy goals differently based on their majority party status before a bill is subjected to procedural tactics on the floor.
*Melissa Sinclair, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University
“From Our Abundance: the Origins of U.S. Foreign Assistance as Evidenced in Congressional Debates, 1789-1949”
Although the mid-20th century presented important advancements in the history of congressional legislation for foreign aid activities, the trend in scholarship to designate this period as the "birth" of U.S. Foreign Assistance is problematic because it entraps the practice in the paradigms of the Cold War and ignores its historic roots. This study asks: Prior to 1945, why did congressmen support or oppose foreign aid legislation? Through anlaysis of the congressional debates and subsequent archival research, this study will create and trace changes in the ‘cognitive-perceptual framework’ that guided the congressional decision-making processes, and laid the foundation for the permanent programs instituted after WWII.
*Samir Sonti, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
“Inflation and the Antimonopoly Tradition in the Postwar Congress”
This is a historical study of the Congressional politics of inflation in the post-World War II period. In particular, it focuses on the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, exploring the ways that the policy knowledge it produced between the 1950s and 1970s informed presidential administrations' and Federal Reserve authorities' understanding of the causes of inflation. Inflation was a “permanent dilemma” in postwar American politics, yet few studies have examined it outside of the great "stagflation" of the later 1970s, and all have focused on the response from the Presidency and the Fed. A longer history that centers Congress can enrich our understanding of this important issue.
*Ryan D. Williamson, Department of Political Science, University of Georgia
“Examining the Disparate Preferences of Party Leaders and Their Base: Evidence from Primary Elections”
Over time, congressional districts (and states to a lesser extent) have more become more predictably partisan, which has led primary elections to become the center of intra-party conflict. This has also, in turn, given more power to individuals. However, one power retained by party leaders is the ability to fund candidates through the national campaign committees. This can then lead to a discrepancy between the constituency's prefered candidate and that of party leadership. In this project, I will systematically explore who wins primary elections and what factors ultimately contribute to his or her success.