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A large, complex organization composed of appointed officials.

Spoils system

Another phrase for political patronage - the practice of giving jobs and contracts, to the loyal members of that party.


A policy based on the idea that government should play a small role, as possible, in the economy.

Discretionary authority

The extent to which appointed bureaucrats can choose courses of action and make policies that are not spelled out in advance by laws.

Competitive service

the government offices to which people are appointed on the basis of merit, as ascertained by a written examination or by applying certain selection criteria, such as training, educational attainments, or prior experience.

Name-request job

A Job that is filled by a person whom a gov't agency has already identified by name.

Iron triangle

A close relationship between an agency, a congressional committee, and an interest group. Often becomes a mutually advantageous alliance.

Issue network

A network of people in Washington D.C based interest groups, on congressional staffs, in universities and think tanks, and in the mass media, who regularly discuss and advocate public policies.

Authorization legislation

Legislative permission to begin or continue a government program or agency.


A legislative grant of money to finance government program.

Trust funds

Funds for government programs that are collected and spent outside the regular government budget; the amounts are determined by preexisting law rather than by annual appropriations. The Social Security trust fund is the largest of these.

Annual authorizations

That every year the legislative committees, as part of the re-authorization process, get to set limits on what these agencies can spend. It limits the ability of the appropriations committees to determine the spending limits.

Committee clearance

The ability of a congressional committee to review and approve certain agency decisions in advance and without passing a law. Such approval is not legally binding on the agency, but few agency heads will ignore the expressed wishes of committees.

Legislative veto

The authority of Congress to block a presidential action after it has taken place. The Supreme Court has held that Congress does not have this power.

Red tape

Complex bureaucratic rules and procedure that must be followed to get something done.

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