Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The political world never really changes, does it?

"Patronage was most evident in politics, and there its use was instinctive. When Benjamin Franklin was made deputy postmaster general of North America in 1753, he wasted no time in appointing all his friends and relatives to positions under his control. His son became postmaster in Philadelphia. One brother was made postmaster in Boston; when the brother died, Franklin gave the office to his brother's stepson. He made his nephew postmaster in New Haven, appointed the son of a friend postmaster in Charleston, and made another in New York controller. A year or so later he promoted his son to be controller and moved the husband of his wife's niece into the vacated Philadelphia position. When this office again became open, he brought another brother down from Newport to fill it." -- Gordon S. Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, 1991, p. 77.

"Obama’s promise of changing Washington hasn’t extended to banishing the age-old practice of giving plum posts to relatives of your top supporters — as he’s done with the relatives of a half-dozen well-connected Democrats...

"They are:
• Cameron Kerry, the brother of an early Obama backer, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who has been tapped as chief counsel at the Commerce Department
• Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who received a coveted appointment to the Federal Communications Commission • David Hamilton, nephew of former congressman and Democratic elder statesman Lee Hamilton, who was appointed to an appellate judgeship

• Courtney Gregoire, daughter of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who last week was tapped as director of legislative affairs at Commerce
• Laurie Mikva, daughter of legendary former Chicago judge and Congressman Abner Mikva, who was appointed to the board of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to low-income people
• And Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is a special adviser on health care to OMB Director Peter Orszag." -- Article at politico.com .

Let me just comment that cronyism and patronage are not quite synonyms. The dictionary makes a significant distinction, as the phrase "without regard to qualifications" is added to the cronyism definition but not to the one for patronage. So that's the challenge for the six people politico names; they've got to convince reasonable minds that they are patrons and not cronies.

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