Shocker: Spoils System Never Left
Despite the “shock” and “dismay” being expressed over recent events, and despite of the well-meaning intentions of the good-government types, I am here to point out that the Spoils System never left American politics.
First Governor Ehrlich and now Governor Fletcher, both Republicans in border states, faced scandals over their hiring practices. In Fletcher’s case, he and his cohorts may have violated state law for putting partisanship first, and the scandal is threatening to seriously damage the state party.
We all know of the Ohio scandals, particularly the decision to invest in a GOP donor’s rare coin collection scheme that cost the state millions of dollars. We can already see the damage as the second most Republican district in the state nearly elected a Democrat to Congress in a special election. (If this repeats next year, as many as 6-8 House Republicans in Ohio alone could be vulnearable, if the Ohio Dems knew what they were doing.)
And most recently, President Bush apparently named a lobbyist for Arabian horses to head FEMA, who so badly failed in his response to Katrina that he was pushed out.
But you know what, those are only media-caught incidents of a more pervasive problem.
Congress interviewed Mr. Brown for the FEMA role and surely must have known about his being fired from that lobbying job for Arabian horses. But where was the oversight? Why did they vote to confirm him rather than demanding someone actually qualified for the job?
Well, Congress is hardly innocent themselves. They get elected with largely the same pool of donors and consultants – enriching a select group of special interests and a new permanent class of political professionals. And getting hired in Congress – hell, to get an unpaid volunteer/intern gig – requires little more than connections to the right people, with resumes and skills having little to do with it.
Ask my friend Nick, whose been looking for a Hill job since he left Law School four months ago, and wouldn’t mind doing the low job of “Executive Assistant” which is little more than a receptionist. And he’s got contacts with a couple chiefs of staff, a lobbyist, and a family friend that works in the Executive Branch.
Or ask me, as my last interview on the Hill was a brief 5-minute encounter for a similar front-desk job for a Senator from the coal mining state of West Virginia – his office manager completely dismissed my full-time (and better paying job) with the United Mine Workers because I had recently completed “college” (that is, my masters). In other words, the woman hadn’t spent two seconds looking at my resume before calling me in.
The Spoils System is alive and well. It’s just that some politicians lately are becoming a bit more arrogant and brazen about it.