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Question of the day II

Monday, Apr 7, 2014

* Today’s question is more of a caption contest, so let’s do a serious one now. The Daily Herald has a story on the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force report from last week

“Hiring based on political considerations is corrosive to good government,” the task force stated.

The report also focused on the RTA, refuting advice from Chairman John Gates to give the agency greater authority over the CTA, Metra and Pace.

Task force members pointed out hiring Madigan’s son-in-law Jordan Matyas in 2011 as an RTA lobbyist and later chief of staff at a time when there was talk in Springfield of abolishing the agency.

“We cannot credibly vouch … that the answer to decades of patronage that involved dozens of officials from both parties is to place (Metra) under the more rigorous oversight of an agency who chose to select the speaker’s son-in-law as chief lobbyist,” the task force concluded.


Former US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was the task force’s ethics chairman. Fitzgerald has never been a big MJM fan, to say the least.

* Gates responded

Asked about the harsh task force language concerning the RTA, Gates said, “It was a really cheap shot.”

He insisted Matyas was selected months after a bill was defeated that would have given the governor appointing authority over the RTA chair.

Matyas “came in through the front door,” was one of at least two candidates he interviewed and “ has done a terrific job,” Gates told reporters after an address to the City Club of Chicago.

* The Question: “Hiring based on political considerations is corrosive to good government.” Agree or disagree? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

survey tool

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Smoggie - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    Did Gates actually make that claim with a straight face?

    Jordan’s record consists of having a pretty bad reputation when he was a lawyer.

    He get engaged and then miraculously finds himself in positions of authority.

    In the current position there were allegations of some sort of abusive behavior where, it was reported, he needed “additional training.”

    Sure, he family ties did not matter at all.

    Jordan is Example A for everything we need to know about the results of political hiring.

  2. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:54 pm:

    When a government hires, everything is political.

    Claiming that it is corrosive shows an attitude found only in textbooks and classrooms - not reality.

  3. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 2:56 pm:

    The Rutan decision, I believe still allows for “exempt” hires, so by allowing some to exist in the first place and after doesn’t sound too corrosive.

    It’s cute that “All” are bad. Are “All” good? No. Are “All” bad? Again, no.

  4. - Bill White - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    Hiring based on political considerations is inevitable.

    What is most corrosive to good government is to spread the illusion that political considerations can be ignored. Those who most loudly assert to be free from “political considerations” are often the most political people of all.

    The pervasiveness of politics needs to be acknowledged and a system of checks and balances established.

  5. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:02 pm:

    –Former US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald was the task force’s ethics chairman. Fitzgerald has never been a big MJM fan, to say the least.–

    But he never laid a glove on him in 11 years, with the IRS and FBI on his team. C’mon, man, if you sent the FBI and IRS after me, I’d get life in front of a firing squad.

    Give it up, Ahab.

    To the question, no. To pretend there is not subjectivity in hiring is silly.

    I’m sure that Fitz would agree that all those attorney generals he served under, and all those U.S. attorneys he served with, didn’t get their gigs because they were at the tops of their class.

    Did that make them “corrosive?”

  6. - VanillaMan - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    Sounds like the task force found themselves far more ethical, far more informed and far more intelligent than the subjects with whom they were tasked.

    Self anointed saints always find sinners.

  7. - Big Muddy - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:03 pm:

    Incest does not give positive results.

  8. - OneMan - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:04 pm:

    So torn on this one I didn’t answer…

    But, when it comes down to it is the implication that the idea of politically removed civil service doesn’t work. That all government hiring is influenced by politics?

  9. - Demoralized - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    I voted disagree. You can’t eliminate politics in hiring in many positions (i.e. senior positions). Those in charge should be entitled to have the people on staff they want in those positions. As long as they can do the job then I’m good with it. It’s not like it’s some unique thing to the public sector. The private sector does the same thing.

  10. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:07 pm:

    I disagree that hiring based on political considerations is inherently corrosive to good government. However, it can be corrosive to good government when decisions are made to put political allies in positions of power that they are unable to execute or lack experience for.

    If politics is “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government,” then hiring based on political considerations (keeping power via appointment of allies) cannot be inherently corrosive to good government. Thus, only bad management, coercion, theft, etc. are inherently corrosive to good government.

  11. - the Patriot - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:12 pm:

    It is bad. You hire the best people for the job period.

    Edgar did the best at getting qualified people. he raised minimum education standards for people in technical positions. He still gave preference to republicans, no doubt about it, but they had to…for the most part be qualified. You will never get this 100% right. Ryan, the Blago, and Quinn have eliminated any thought of qualifications.

    The fact is the democrats are in power so they get the heat on this, but republican legislators still make their play for patronage jobs when they can…the opportunities are just fewer for the minority party.

  12. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:15 pm:

    I voted yes, but it’s really too narrowly tailored. Politics can be one consideration, but it should never be the primary consideration. Our world exists in shades of gray and this is just a smidge too black and white.

  13. - A guy... - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:16 pm:

    couldn’t cast a vote. If it’s only based on political considerations; yes. If political considerations only got one to the interview and didn’t preordain the job; no.

  14. - DuPage - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:16 pm:

    Politics should not be used either way. It should not be used as a qualification to be hired. At the same time it should not disqualify anyone who otherwise can do the job.

  15. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:17 pm:

    Having people with strong social connections to other people in the organization promotes cohesiveness.

    The organization will move with more unity of purpose.

    This can be a good thing or a bad thing.

    That said, I find the practice of government agencies hiring lobbyists to be… open for abuse. Lobbyists can’t be held accountable for passing or blocking legislation. So, it seems like a way to funnel money to people who are insiders.

  16. - phocion - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:18 pm:

    Too broad a question. There are political types who are hired to ensure policy is followed. Then there are the vast majority of the public employee workforce who should be allowed to do their jobs without political consideration. If the second arena becomes polluted by political considerations in hiring, then it is corrosive.

  17. - D.P.Gumby - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:19 pm:

    Neither answer is possible because both answers are correct. Depends too much on the individual. RFK as Atty General was both, for example.

  18. - Anon. - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    I voted no, because at the policy level political considerations have to matter. The governor, for example, should be able to hire his own people for the top spots in his agencies. There is a level of employment at which technical competence should matter more than political considerations, but even then, I see nothing inherently wrong with hiring a competent IT person who is a member of the governor’s party ahead of an equally competent person who is not.

  19. - fed up - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    Word, I take it you know that the IRS and FBI looked into Madigan, at Fitzgerlds urging and found nothing.

    im sure their are many people that the feds never got around to because even they have limits to their resources

  20. - Rich Miller - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:21 pm:

    ===because even they have limits to their resources===

    Yeah. That’s it. They ran out of resources.

  21. - bored now - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:23 pm:

    i voted yes. we elect leaders to represent us in governance, not to serve as job placement consultants…

  22. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:23 pm:

    The whole “best person for the job” is silly.

    You can’t tell on the front end who will excel at a job and who will just perform “middle of the pack”. And someone who might be great working for supervisor A might not be as good working for supervisor B.

    If there was a system of telling who would excel at a job, everybody would use it. But we don’t have that system.

    It reflects ignorance of the real world to pretend it’s self-evident who the best candidate for positions are.

    Why was “Always On My Mind” a huge hit for Willie Nelson but not so for Elvis Presley? Smart money is that Presley could get more mileage out of a song than Nelson. But in this case, the reverse was true.

  23. - Darienite - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:25 pm:

    Phocian gave the best comment. My vote was ‘agree’, considering rank and file public employees.

  24. - Wensicia - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:26 pm:

    Political considerations to the exclusion of everything else, yes.

  25. - Darienite - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:29 pm:

    ==I see nothing inherently wrong with hiring a competent IT person who is a member of the governor’s party ahead of an equally competent person who is not.==
    So (and ignore Rutan for the sake of arguement) you don’t have a problem when the opposing party’s candidate gets elected and replaces all IT people if the registered with the other party? I

  26. - April Fool - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:36 pm:

    What are “political considerations” anyway? People who do political work? The kid of a campaign donor? A politician’s neighbor’s son or daughter?

    The fact of the matter is that there are people that are hired based on “political considerations” that are very good at their job, and there are people that are hired based on “political considerations” that are complete knuckleheads.

    Similarly I have seen people who aren’t political who are very good at their jobs and also people who aren’t political who are knuckleheads.

    To get ahead, its not just about what you know, but who you know as well - and this isn’t unique to Illinois or government.

  27. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    Dariente, Illinois is a state with a fairly highly politicized government. Still, do you know anyone, anytime, who has actually done what you suggest? Straw man! I voted “No”.. Hiring incompetent people is far more corrosive.

  28. - wordslinger - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 3:55 pm:

    –im sure their are many people that the feds never got around to because even they have limits to their resources–

    The U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, for 11 years?

    You don’t think Madigan was at the top of the list for these egomaniacs the whole time, and every resource would have been committed to take him down?

    You can’t be serious.

  29. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 4:05 pm:

    Assertions that are overly broad are frequently wrong. Had the statement said “Unfettered political hiring” there probably wouldn’t be so much blowback on here, where the blog entries trace a different trajectory than the poll numbers

  30. - Anon 1 - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 4:10 pm:

    I have never worked at or heard of a place of employment that always hired “The best person for the job”.

    In the business world friends and relatives get hired all the time. The difference is those people will much more likely lose their job or be moved around for non-performance.

  31. - Just Me - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 4:14 pm:

    I would like someone to ask Mr. Gates if anyone from the Speaker’s Office, or anyone associated with the Speaker, ever recommended the Speaker’s son-in-law. I would also be curious why only two people were interviewed for such an important position.

    After last week’s revealing of the Speaker’s long influence in hiring at Metra it is a very fair question.

  32. - roscoe tom - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:00 pm:

    Tell me everyone that serves in the US Attorney’s Office doesn’t have a “letter of recommendation” from “someone” or a call that speaks to how “wonderful and brillant” they are and I will once again believe in the Easter Bunny.

  33. - illini67 - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:01 pm:

    The Illinois DNR is a good example. One high level employee was put on unpaid leave, another was demoted and then resigned, one more was being paid by the state while traveling to fishing competitions and yet another was forced to repay $7200 in bogus travel expenses. All political appointees if I am not mistaken!

  34. - Walker - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:13 pm:

    Straight up: I had a major difficulty giving any credence to the task force report, because Fitzgerald had anything to do with it.

    I took a breath and read it, and some of their findings were worthwhile, especially on structure and authority, when they didn’t waste their time with the hiring distractions.

  35. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:19 pm:

    I’m with Schnorf.

    Hiring based solely on political considerations is generally a bad idea.

    But lets be honest, Mr. Fitzgerald:

    Nearly every lawyer at every law firm in America got their foot in the door because they knew somebody.

    If your accusation is true, the corrosion on our legal system is far worse. In fact, it is nothing but rust.

  36. - vibes - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:21 pm:

    I’m w/ Schnorf: “Hiring based ONLY on political considerations” is of course corrosive. Hiring blind to political considerations, as Mr. Fitzgerald believes is possible, simply ignores human nature and compromise.

    That said, I always thought the RTA hire was boneheaded and politically blind on its own, as it opened them up for just that kind of cheap shot.

  37. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 5:43 pm:

    @vibes -

    We can have a reasonable debate on that one.

    Madigan is Fitzgerald’s Moby Dick. Blago wasn’t enough to satisfy his sense of accomplishment, and his senses wax and wane.

  38. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 6:25 pm:

    Clout over time erodes good government.

  39. - Just The Way It Is One - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 7:12 pm:

    Usually, but not necessarily. Sometimes hiring the right person, who also happens to support one or the Official’s politically and, even more so, as to his/her certain positions or stances on some politically-unresolved issue, may lead to an excellent hire with experience, background, and/or dedication to a subject or cause, which ultimately may further and help achieve progress in the People’s best overall interest/general welfare as to the enactment or implementation of said particular, public policy positions…!

  40. - Bobo - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 9:05 pm:

    It should not be even a question. If anybody ever worked for the City of Chicago during Richard M’s heyday when the Daley volunteers ran roughshod over everybody and everything then you would know how silly the question is.

    Political hiring has made this State and big City a cesspool of under performing and worthless slackers. It has gone on for generations.

  41. - Pot Calling Kettle; Come in Kettle - Monday, Apr 7, 14 @ 11:12 pm:

    Who was Fitzie’s first hire at US Atty office? Maggie Hickey - a political hire from the office of US Sen Peter Fitzgerald - the guy who gave Fitzie his job. When I do it, that’s ok - but when you do it, that’s CORRUPTION!

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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