Of Victors and Spoils

For some reason, I've been thinking a lot about this story I noted yesterday that the Bush Administration is removing U.S. delegates from the Inter-American Telephone Commission (IATC) because they gave money to John Kerry in last year's election.

Let's presume that the only way the Bush administration figured out who the Kerry donors were is by looking at the public records of the Federal Election Commission. And let's recall that the Bush administration has systematically worked to remove unions and other job protections from the federal civil service. Are we moving to a system in which administrations will be able to police loyalty with heightened efficiency? Was this effect contemplated by campaign finance reform? Should we start allowing anonymous contributions, at least up to a point?

Note also that it's only a short step from firing Kerry supporters to only allowing Bush donors.

There are many Supreme Court decisions suggesting that this sort of extortion would not be legal in the civil service. (Perhaps, arguably, diplomatic jobs are slightly different in that although extortion is out, rewarding paying friends has long been traditional.) There is also a law that makes it a serious crime to promise anyone a government job in exchange for a campaign contribution. But the workaround is obvious: just let it be known in a general but visible and effective manner that we reward our friends and punish our enemies. Don't make any specific promises or threats, just act in accordance after the election.

So that's all pretty bad, another drip in the erosion of half-decent government as we knew it.

Or is it? There reasons after all why we would want an elected official to appoint like-minded assistants. At least when the official actually got a majority of the votes actually cast, promotion of the like-minded promotes democratic control of the bureaucracy. And that, political theory tells us, should be a good thing.

What bugs me is that the IATC is a technical standards body. We'd probably like our delegates there to be the engineers and business people who best understand the technologies. Reality-based, if you'll excuse the term.

Three years, 38 weeks, 3 days and a bit more, to go.

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2 Responses to Of Victors and Spoils

  1. Jason says:

    3 years, 38 weeks etc, unless the Republicans come to their senses, or get clobbered in the off-year. Then we can impeach him.

  2. Nell Lancaster says:

    Michael: There [are] reasons after all why we would want an elected official to appoint like-minded assistants. At least when the official actually got a majority of the votes actually cast, promotion of the like-minded promotes democratic control of the bureaucracy.

    And there are plenty of political appointees to the top levels of every agency for just those reasons. Civil service should be able to unionize, and should not be subject to political masters without process (as is now the case in Homeland Security, which is expanding to swallow a great many things).

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