Somewhere I lost connections/
Ran out of songs to play. . . .
Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again.
Despite many folks citing principles, values and service to their community as reasons for participating in politics, one of the more direct reasons is related to pure self-interest: a job derived from political connections.
It’s called political “patronage.” It is not nearly as pervasive as in the days that Boss Tweed dominated New York City or the Daley machine ruled Chicago, but it is still a major element in our system’s form of government.
Lawyers get involved in politics not always for altruistic reasons, but rather because governors and senators either outright make or exert influence on the selection of judges, for example. Or a governor and an attorney general will get together to decide who might represent the state in workman’s comp cases.
When presidential Administrations change, there’s always a bevy of lawyers who see the next U.S. Attorney when they look in the mirror in the morning. Or a county sheriff sees the next U.S. Marshall. Or a farmer sees the next state director for the Farm Services Administration.
One of the most powerful and influential but little known “patronage” positions in the pacific northwest is the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, the entity that manages and markets the enormous amounts of electricity generated by some 30 federally built and operated dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
The Administrator oversees the agency’s 3200 employees, and has a $3 billion annual budget paid from the revenues it receives for the power it markets, with a significant component of that budget being an annual payment to the Treasury to pay down the debt incurred in the building of the hydro system, the lines for transmission, and a mandated commitment to enhance the region’s threatened salmon and steel head runs.
Historically, there has been an unofficial practice regarding this post. The senior senator from the northwest’s senatorial delegation of the party in the White House “selects” the administration’s nominee who does have to go before the full Committee on Interior and Insular affairs for confirmation by the full Senate.
When an Administration changes, the administrator resigns. If the administrator leaves mid-term, then the lead rotates to that party’s next in seniority senator. This “patronage,” like all, has produced some fine executives as well as some turkeys. (more…)