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If there is a theme to Louis Fisher's Presidential Spending Power, it resides in his statement concerning legislative reprogramming, that ""the opportunity for mischief is substantial."" Fisher's study does not examine the politics of budget preparation and appropriation. His chief concern is the power of the purse in the hands of the executive, and his thesis is, clearly, that ""what is done by legislators at the appropriations stage can be undone by administrators during budget execution."" Although Fisher's account reviews historical and on-going debates he is primarily interested in executive abuses of the expenditure process, the many methods by which a president can circumvent Congressional intentions--earmarking, reprogramming, reappropriation, recoupment and deferrals. Fisher is particularly good in his discussions of three techniques: the executive use of contingency funds, impoundment, and covert financing. By these means President Nixon was able to make a gift of a helicopter to Anwar Sadat (cost $3 million), to finance the ""Bahamas Livestock and Research Project,"" (cost $10 million) and to carry on his Cambodian campaigns. It is not really surprising to learn that ""probably $10 billion to $15 billion in the federal budget is obscured because of confidential funds, secret funds, or cryptic budget justifications.'' Fisher's very timely study fills a gap in the scholarship, but in light of his overwhelming evidence of the many possibilities for executive manipulation and misuse of funds, Fisher's suggested remedies seem somewhat flabby--that discretionary actions be harnassed; that the expenditure of money be more visible; and that there be better accountability techniques.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press