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Congressional Research Grants

Information about the Congressional Research Grants Sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center

Grant Recipients, 2014

Grant Recipients, 1978-present

How do I apply?

What did grant recipients accomplish in their first year of funded research?

Information about the Congressional Research Grants Sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center

NOTE: The next deadline for applications is March 1 of the current year. Grants will be announced in April.

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 $944,208 to support over 436 projects. Applications are accepted at any time, but the deadline is March 1 for the annual selections, which are announced in April.

The amount of funding available varies from year to year. In 2014, for example, The Center budgeted $35,000 for the 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 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.

How do I apply? 

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 Please insert the following in the Subject Line:  “CRG Application [insert your surname].” Thank you.

The Congressional Research Grant Application contains the following elements:

  • Applicant Information.
  • 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  Length not to exceed one page.
  • 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

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 March 1 of the current year. Grants will be announced in April.

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 
2815 Broadway
Pekin, IL 61554-4219 USA 
(309) 347-7113              (309) 347-7113       
(309) 347-6432 FAX

Grant Recipients, 2014

**PhD Candidate

Julia Azari, Department of Political Science, Marquette University
“Punishing Partisanship: Congressional Leaders, Presidents, and the Dilemma of Compromise”

Political leaders face a dilemma between holding fast to party principles, thus adhering to their core constituents, versus making decisions that broadly represent the interests of the nation. Conventional wisdom in American politics posits that citizens will punish partisanship, reward compromise, and applaud politicians who are willing to cross party lines. This study tests the assumption in an experimental context and examines how it applies to the Congress and the presidency.

*Emily Baer, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota
“The Democratic Study Group: Party Factions and the Development of Congressional Leadership”

This project explores the development of contemporary congressional parties and party leadership through a case study of the DSG. While the DSG is widely acknowledged as a reform leader in the House Democratic Caucus, its role in developing stronger, more engaged and responsible congressional parties as leadership is poorly understood. Baer’s dissertation will employ a multi-method approach, including an analysis of the complete archival records of the DSG, to fill this gap by examining the DSG as a distinct party faction whose emergence and actions produced a fundamental change in party culture, power, and organization.

John Baughman, Department of Politics, Bates College
“The People’s House: The Antebellum Origins of the Electoral Connection”

This project concerns the development of constituency-oriented behavior by legislators in the Antebellum U.S. House of Representatives and its role in shaping legislative power in the institution, in particular bill introductions and the standing committee system, 1820-1860. It challenges the common claim that legislators did not begin to respond avidly to electoral incentives until late in the 19th century.

Charles Finocchiaro, Department of Political Science, University of South Carolina
“Party Leadership and Member Resources in the Institutionalizing House”

This project aims to advance our understanding of the U.S. Congress by examining its evolution and operation in the late 19th and early 20th century House which emerged in the 1910s with a modern career structure and mature leadership. The focus is to explicate the details of the legislation that effectively distributed credit-claiming opportunities among members of Congress in two key areas: casework and pork-barrel spending.

Timothy LaPira, Department of Political Science, James Madison University
*Herschel Thomas, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin
“Revolving Door Lobbying: Public Service, Private Influence, and the Unequal Representation of Interests”

This research sheds light on the so-called revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street by analyzing two original data sets on individual lobbyists’ professional biographies: one for a sample of 1,614 registered lobbyists and one for 577 “shadow” lobbyists who do not disclose their activities. The authors propose to supplement this research with qualitative interviews of lobbyists who are former leaders, members, or staff in Congress, current congressional members and staff, lobbyist headhunters, and lobbying firm managers.

Anthony Madonna, Department of Political Science, University of Georgia
Ian Ostrander, Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University
“Hired Help: The Significance of Staffing for Congressional Capacity”

Congress would be unimaginable without professional support staff who, while neither elected nor appointed, ensure the smooth functioning of government by performing the myriad administrative and technical tasks that create legislative proposals, develop cross-party deals, and ultimately lead to an informed vote. This project will investigate patterns of staffing including aggregate numbers, distribution over key offices, and the allocation of staff within individual member offices.

*Megan Moeller, Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin
“Heresthetics, Partisanship, and the Pursuit of Majority Status in an Era of Party Government”

This project investigates what role parties’ and their members’ pursuit of majority party status plays in explaining outcomes in the U.S. House. The growing power disparity between the majority and minority party in the last several decades has greatly increased the importance to representatives of being a member of the majority party. Moeller will use quantitative methods to analyze how the goal of majority status affects member decision-making and behavior, party leadership strategy, and a variety of components of the legislative process.

Lynda Powell, Department of Political Science, University of Rochester
“Effects of Leadership Professionalization”

Powell will add the Congress to a study of state legislatures to delineate the effects of leadership professionalization in American legislatures on legislative polarization and on the legislative influence of campaign contributors. Her work on state legislatures found that leadership professionalization (1) incentivized caucus fundraising which enhanced the legislative influence of donors, and (2) reduced the fraction of time members spent building bipartisan rather than partisan legislative coalitions.

*Eric Radezky, Political Science Department, Rutgers University
“Home Style in the 21st Century”

This replication study of Fenno’s Home Style will be conducted with ethnographic research of sitting House members in order to understand how they affect the way constituents perceive them. While it is expected that certain findings will remain the same, such as the need for fit between the member and the constituency, others will have changed. Radezky expects that partisanship will play a much larger role than it did in the 1970s.

Andrew Reeves, Department of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis
*Adam Dynes, Department of Political Science, Yale University
“Caucus Meetings, Service Requests, and Party Coordination in the House”

To shed light on how congressional leaders coordinate and influence the legislative actions of their party members, the authors examine two important but understudied party-building activities used by the House Republican leadership: 1) weekly caucus meetings held by party leaders and 2) legislative and constituent services provided by party staff. Using a unique data set of House Republicans’ attendance at these meetings and their requests for services from the party, they will analyze the factors that are associated with members’ participation in these activities and whether participation affects members’ behavior, both in terms of roll call votes and messaging.

Danielle Thomsen, Department of Political Science, Duke University
“Ideological Moderates Won’t Run: How Candidate Emergence Contributes to Partisan Polarization in Congress”

While replacement processes are the main driver behind the rise in partisan polarization, we know little about why these replacements are more extreme than their predecessors. This research offers a candidate entry explanation that highlights ideological variation in the types of candidates who run for Congress. The central claim is that ideological conformity with the party influences the decision to run for and remain in office, and Thomsen suggests that partisan polarization in Congress has discouraged ideological moderates from pursuing a congressional career.

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