The Republicans are doing the very same thing as Democrats. We discovered 13 staffers taking a leaves of absence and being farmed out to do political work.
It’s not included in the Fox write-up, but if you watch the video you’ll see the chit-chat after the story included a charge from the House Democrats that 13 HGOP staffers taken off the payroll is way too low, along with a suggestion that the Republicans might have been using staff on state time for campaigns. The allegation wasn’t investigated further, however.
* House GOP Leader Tom Cross defended the practice of taking state staff off the payroll for campaigns…
“You get young kids that come to work for you that like politics and like policy and say I want to get involved in campaigns,” Cross said. “And that’s okay.”
As Cross explained, it’s only okay — and ethical — if there is a distinct line between state work done at taxpayer expense and political work done off the state payroll.
“We passed a law several years ago, an ethics bill, that made it very clear that you can’t do any political work while on state time,” he said. “Which would seem to be the obvious thing.”
Like the Democrats, we also found Republican staffers getting paychecks from campaigns while working fulltime for the state.
Leader Cross’s chief of staff Matthew O’Shea earned $140,000 in his state salary, but also collected $12,000 from the Republican party.
“He does political work, he likes it he want to do it,” Cross said of O’Shea’s two jobs. “It’s over and above his state work.”
* This is kinda interesting…
But there’s no explanation for another case uncovered by FOX Chicago Investigates. In July, 2008, house Republicans hired a pair of policy analysts to work for the state. After only two weeks on the job, they jumped off the state payroll to go work for the Republican party until after the November election.
So why put someone on the state payroll for two-weeks? Cross said he did not know the specifics of those two hirings.
* Patrick Collins kinda misses the point, at least when it comes to general elections…
“When [legislative leaders have] the ability to control the dollars as well as the people that’s really a one-two punch that can change the dynamic of a race,” he said.
Since everybody is doing this, it doesn’t really impact general elections. Primaries, however, are different stories…
When Democratic St. Rep. Dan Burke found himself in a tough race this year, Madigan told Burke to fire his campaign manager, and sent in state worker Tom Wogan to run Burke’s campaign.
Republicans also gave employees time off for the 2010 primary and paid them more than $50,000 dollars for campaign work.
Almost always, primary opponents who aren’t backed by the leaders are in a very disadvantageous position.
* Rich Means gets to the heart of the real problem here…
Election attorney Rich Means has battled state staffers on the campaign trail and says the ability to assign armies of state workers to political races gives legislative leaders a hammer.
“What it does is give all the power to the legislative leaders,” Means said. “It stifles political dissent within the political parties. It stifles independence in the legislature. It just closes the system down.”
* Picking on individual, rank-and-file staffers is way unfair. I don’t think Fox handled that aspect very well at all. In my mind, this issue is only tangentially about whether staff ought to be allowed to jump off state payrolls to work campaigns.
And completely separating politics from the Legislature is a goofy concept. Our democratic system is fundamentally based on campaigns - a basic fact that people like Collins don’t seem to understand. Still, there ought to be a limit.
What is important here is the power of the leaders. Without that staff, they can’t control their members nearly as well.
Here’s just one example: People who staff committees answer directly to the leaders, not the chairpersons and minority spokespersons. The leaders appoint the committee chairs. They appoint the committee members. It’s total, absolute control.
Everyone who works in the political realm has opinions - usually very storng ones - about politics. If they didn’t, I would wonder if they were truly intelligent enough to be doing that sort of work. The good ones, though, they check their leanings at the door and do their work fairly.
The idea that anything can be done in a “nonpartisan” fashion by appointed or “merit selected” people is a total myth. And one can’t separate govenrment from politics because teh sort of people who are enthused about it enough to do it for a living (and do it well) are by their nature political people.
What is important here is the power of the leaders.
I agree. There appears to be an unintended consequence that can be addressed by both political parties within their policies.
Making this a state issue is a stretch. Expecting a solution via the state would be a stretch too. The best solution is the one closest to the identified issue. In my opinion, that would be the Democratic and Republican caucuses.
We have to hold our political parties accountable for their misjudgements and mistakes. Claiming that “everyone” is responsible fails to do this. When this occurs, both parties end up colluding towards a lower ethical standard instead of seizing the opportunity to stand apart and winning with the higher ethical standard.
This is not about Fox anymore than it would be about the color of the newspaper print used to present this information. Shooting the messenger is a fool’s errand.
- Still Gettin Twisted - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:02 am:
many people have talked about how FOX “picked” on the staffers. They didn’t “pick” on the GOP staffers.. Madigan declined to go on camera for the story. Cross went on camera. are the two related?
This is nothing, Blagojevich’s Illinois Tollway staff (big ones and little ones) collected pay checks from the tollway while getting paid for campaign work.
When’s someone going to seriously investigate that cesspool of corruption?
I find it fascinating that the report specifically names several democratic staffers and goes so far as to show pictures, yet they refrain from naming a single republican staffer. If you watch both reports, the most “damning” part happens to be the statement that the HGOP put 2 people on payroll for a grand total of 2 weeks and then moved them to political…but, of course, they don’t mention the names of those people. Instead let’s show a picture of some guy who worked for Burke.
Interesting to me that Cross went on air for this story but Madigan did not, not last night or even the night before. In my opinion, if leadership won’t stand forward and speak to the issue, talking to their lieutenants is way fair.
It’s not as black and white as Fox would have us believe. The legislators, by nature, are making political decisions and doing political work almost always at the same time they are doing their official duties. Sure, they can’t raise political contributions on state property, but by the nature of their jobs the lines are completely blurred.
So how can we not expect the staff people who work for those legislators to not have similar dual-responsibilities? The Madigan staff people have for a very long time been very diligent about the separation of work duties and work places. Those staffers work 60+ hours a week during session and they don’t get “overtime” like union-represented state workers, so I agree with Rich that Placko is a little out of bounds by focusing on them.
Overall the story missed the mark for me. Staffers jumping on an off the payroll, that’s fine by me. But who controls the political staffs for the state is the real issue. It’s not the political parties, as it should be. The control is in the hands of the actual legislative leaders which is the problem.
So when a legislator (like Rep. Burke) needs political help, he doesn’t ask the political party - he asks his legislative leader. That’s the problem IMHO.
The legislative staffer doesn’t go to his boss and say “hey, can I take a leave of absence, I need to do something for my other job?” It goes like this “staffer - you are going on leave next week because Rep. XXX needs help with his primary campaign.” That’s where the problem exists, the control, not the actual concept of p-t
The fact that Cross went on camera and Madigan did not really is not a surprise. Madigan seldom speaks to the press (particularly when he is on the hot seat), while Cross regularly speaks with the press.
More importantly, the lead to the story was incredibly misleading. By stating to viewers that “you’re paying for it” when staffers jump over to campaign work, Fox is more than implying that taxpayers are footing the bill for campaign activity — and that the staffers are therefore breaking the law. That’s simply not the case.
Of course, it’s not nearly as sexy to begin a story by pointing out that staffers move to campaign payroll (off state payroll) precisely to avoid breaking the law. But that doesn’t excuse Fox’s blatantly misleading lead. It just goes to show how Fox’s story is fundamentally weak; they obscured the facts just to jazz it up.
Did many of you expect a positive, nuanced presentation of your industry? Do you think hedge funds, teachers, or any other field that gets frequent media attention is satisfied with the coverage? This isn’t picking on staffers…not if you were around to watch how non-CDS AIG employees were treated. Anything better than outright slander should be considered a victory when subject to such attention.
- Jake from Elwood - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:47 am:
Dane Placko’s answer as to how to best curb this practice in the future is to “stop them at the ballot box”. The solution offered is unrealistic given that the genesis of the “problem” is that state workers support party-affiliated candidates (often incumbents) to preserve the respective power bases. Not a real keen analysis there, Dane-O.
I cannot speak for both staffs. However, I am certain that for at least one of the parties, if not almost certainly both, any political work done off state-time is purely voluntary (voluntary in that involvement is not coerced; the staffers are still paid from political funds). Cross was correct, the staffers do it because they want to be involved, not because they are strong-armed into it. These people are not working for the DMV or the post office - It would be unnatural to have a partisan political staff with no interest in politics. These people ARE interested in politics and are practically begging to be involved in any way that they can in the “off season.” There is nothing wrong or immoral or illegal about these practices in either caucus.
- Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 9:49 am:
==So when a legislator (like Rep. Burke) needs political help, he doesn’t ask the political party - he asks his legislative leader. That’s the problem IMHO.==
So instead of asking Speaker Madigan they should ask Chairman Madigan?
“But there’s no explanation for another case uncovered by FOX Chicago Investigates. In July, 2008, house Republicans hired a pair of policy analysts to work for the state. After only two weeks on the job, they jumped off the state payroll to go work for the Republican party until after the November election.”
Given the time frame, these two individuals were probably recent ILSIP interns that were retained permanently. Under this program, interns work for staff but are paid from the University of Illinois Springfield payroll. When they are retained, records would seem like they were just hired onto staff (because technically they were), but in reality, they had likely been there 10 or 11 months.
===teh sort of people who are enthused about it enough to do it for a living (and do it well) are by their nature political people.===
Amen, brother. Until reform groups and journalists understand the true, personal nature of these folks themselves…. wait that is never going to happen.
Governing to some extent, and campaigning to a major extent is something that is in someone’s blood. Either you are cut out for it, or you aren’t (generally). Those of us who have been involved with campaigns intimately know this. How many times have you heard or said yourself “he/she is just not cut out for this/doesn’t have the chin for this, etc.”
Those that are “cut out for it” are often greatly consumed by the political process. It is what they eat, sleep and blog. If you think any of the folks named in the last two Fox stories aren’t at work right now with their nose to the grindstone as usual, then you don’t get them–just like the reform groups and media.
Thank goodness the politicians are helping assure their own survival, so they can help make our’s a better state, with adaquate funding and a common sense balanced budget. We simply couldn’t get along without them. Nothing like me first and you second….or third. After all, there are our contributors!
The staff’s sharing of time to support the legislative process and to assure their boss’s reelection, so they can continue to save us from ourselves, as they are so needed, doesn’t appear to be against the law? If we don’t think it is right, change the rules…..or simply vote them all out.
Regardless of who carries the message, we should look at what, if anything, needs to be done. I for one wouldn’t want their job with such little pay and long hours. But power is some peoples own reward.
One thing that would help the situation would be if the House members were elected for four year terms instead of two, so they would not be in perpetual campaign mode. It would make sense if, in any Senate district, you elected the Senator in one cycle, and the House members in the other cycle.
==I wonder if Wogan was surprised when he realized he was the featured staffer on the Republican expose.==
Steve Brown said yesterday Placko told him the series was split because it became “unwieldly”. Some split. How are the campaign needs of Dan Burke part of a Republican piece? This was just terrible journalism, all around. There is no defending it.
- Masters Phil - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:21 am:
==I cannot speak for both staffs. However, I am certain that for at least one of the parties, if not almost certainly both, any political work done off state-time is purely voluntary (voluntary in that involvement is not coerced; the staffers are still paid from political funds). ==
I was on one of the legislative staffs in the early oughts. Working or not working campaigns was NOT optional. I believe things are different now but back then, particularly issues/policy staff, you worked campaigns when they told you to work a campaign. But again, from what I understand, the coercion aspect is minimal now.
===particularly issues/policy staff, you worked campaigns when they told you to work a campaign.===
Why would anyone want to work on Issues or Policy and not want to work on campaigns?
- Louis G. Atsaves - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 11:23 am:
Uh, we taxpayers ARE paying for this practice. If these “minions” can jump on and off the state payroll to do political work when ordered, then how important are their state “jobs” to the legislative process?
This full time/part time/now you see them/now you don’t stuff may be old hat to many of us around here, but it doesn’t make it right, nor will the public buy a lot of comments on this topic posted here and yesterday.
If these folks are so valuable to the parties, they should become full time staffers of the parties, with benefits, even if it forces the parties to raise more funds to do this.
The current system allows the parties to keep key people employed in between elections on taxpayer dimes.
I do think Cross and the Republicans have been sloppy about keeping a Chinese Wall between the state work and politics. And it’s hard to believe that a $144 thousand dollar a year state worker or whatever is truly doing all of his “side” political work after 5 PM and on weekends.
Also, Placko said at the end that the Republican staffers keep their state benefits when they move over to campaigns, but that the GOP reimburses the state for that.
Really? Placko might want to check the D-2’s filed with the State Board of Elections to confirm if that’s true. That expense would have to be listed. If the state is still subsidizing the political work in any way, that’s a crime.
**How are the campaign needs of Dan Burke part of a Republican piece?**
The same way it’s a Democrat issue when a Republican challenger gets knocked off the ballot in Vernon Hills.
**Why would anyone want to work on Issues or Policy and not want to work on campaigns?**
Because they live in Illinois ;-))
- Masters Phil - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:18 pm:
==Why would anyone want to work on Issues or Policy and not want to work on campaigns? ==
Rich, I’m not saying an issues/policy staffer wouldn’t want to work on a campaign, I sure did. I’m simply pointing to the previous comment and saying it wasn’t optional. And, it certainly wasn’t optional where you were sent. I suppose looking back, there were many from other areas of staff that didn’t wish to be involved but were “coerced” into campaign work. But again, I don’t think that remains the case today.
- Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 12:43 pm:
==The current system allows the parties to keep key people employed in between elections on taxpayer dimes. ==
Or it provides employment to good people when they aren’t needed in Springfield.
Legislative work and campaign work are both seasonal. The system as it is allows these folks to go where the work is.
- Uncle Kurt '86 - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 1:10 pm:
=Uh, we taxpayers ARE paying for this practice. If these “minions” can jump on and off the state payroll to do political work when ordered, then how important are their state “jobs” to the legislative process?=
So you are in favor of this efficient way to keep younger employees employed, WHILE NOT EARNING TAX PAYER DOLLARS, at times when the legislature is not in session, and thus saving the state money had the employees not taken leave and continued to receive checks signed by the comptroller???
Legislative staff is necessary during session. Undisputed. So, I think we can all agree that this practice, at the very least, SAVES the state money.
Who pays for there health insurance while they are on leave?
Okay, thank you, please proceed….
- Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:08 pm:
==Who pays for there health insurance while they are on leave?==
I believe they have to pay or their employer must pay. I do not think the state pays.
- Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Feb 24, 10 @ 3:18 pm:
=== And completely separating politics from the Legislature is a goofy concept. Our democratic system is fundamentally based on campaigns - a basic fact that people like Collins don’t seem to understand. Still, there ought to be a limit.
What is important here is the power of the leaders. Without that staff, they can’t control their members nearly as well.
Here’s just one example: People who staff committees answer directly to the leaders, not the chairpersons and minority spokespersons. The leaders appoint the committee chairs. They appoint the committee members. It’s total, absolute control. ===
I think Rich’s first point is precise. You don’t work in the General Assembly - for either party - if you aren’t passionate about the issues. If you care about what your side is doing, you WANT to be in the majority. You WANT to get your members re-elected.
Maybe there SHOULD be a limit, but what should it be? Frankly, as far as the leave-of-absence is voluntary — and as far as I know it is — there isn’t a problem.
To Rich’s second point, atleast on the House Democratic side, its inaccurate to say that staff doesn’t answer to committee chairs or their members. Madigan may sign the paychecks, but your job is to keep the members happy. Unhappy members make the phone ring. Unhappy members are less likely to take a controversial vote. Unhappy members lead to chaos, and everything grinds to a halt.
“Who pays for there health insurance while they are on leave?
Okay, thank you, please proceed….”
As has already been discussed elsewhere on this site, in the instances cited by Fox News Chicago, the state workers on a leave of absence who are working on Democratic campaigns share the burden of the health insurance premiums with their new employer, not the state. All other benefits that state worker enjoys while on state payroll are suspended while an employee is on leave, which the employee can choose buy back at a later time if they so choose, but only when they are back on the state payroll.
So in summary, no, the state does not pay for their health insurance while they are on leave doing political work. The worker does, in conjunction with their political employer.
*To Rich’s second point, atleast on the House Democratic side, its inaccurate to say that staff doesn’t answer to committee chairs or their members. Madigan may sign the paychecks, but your job is to keep the members happy. Unhappy members make the phone ring. Unhappy members are less likely to take a controversial vote. Unhappy members lead to chaos, and everything grinds to a halt.*
So, members are the customers. That makes sense. Madigan still hires and fires.
This is as big of a non-issue issue as there is. Exempt public employees at state and federal levels often take leave time or use vacation time to do necessary political work for all sorts of campaigns - be it for their boss or for another candidate. Hiring new staff members to only handle the political aspects may work for some campaigns, but many politicians and party leaders prefer to have their old hands and reliable staffers available for both government and political work. And why shouldn’t they?
The only reason the split becomes a problems is when coercion exists. But two points arise from the coercion angle. First, how many staffers would claim coercion? Second, is it really coercion when your job is literally on the line?
If you want to poke holes at one practice, it would be the actions of people like Mr. O’Shea. If you are already a high-level employee, is it really a good idea for a leader such as Tom Cross to “loan” out his top staffer to another entity for “outside” work that, in a roundabout way, will help Tom Cross in the long run? At that point, one could legitimately question a staffer’s true motive as well as question time splits.
What a minute…. You mean to tell me that when a state employee leaves to go work on a campaign for a person who gets paid from the state doesn’t get insurance from the state!!!!! What are all you smoking!!!!
In other words a state rep is having trouble with a election and there party decides to help them by taking employees and taking them off there payroll. Know that employee is going to want health insurance so is this state rep going to pay all or part out of pocket for this person? I don’t think so…… They tax payers are going to pay.
I just saw a article in the Daily Herald about how some of the state reps offices are behind on paying for there rent in there offices because the state has no money to pay for it. So why won’t the state reps pay for it themselves and ask the state to pay them?