On second thought, maybe Scott Lehigh is right...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Maybe Massachusetts does need a new law requiring lawmakers and other elected officials to disclose each patronage request they make, as he suggested in a recent Boston Globe column.

If office holders had to think of making notations in a report with the Secretary of State, under penalties of perjury, every time they called Commissioner So-and-So to put a good word in for some friend’s cousin’s kid, would they be so quick to pick up the phone?

And how about all the friends of all the office holders in Massachusetts?

Would they be so eager to ask politicians for such help if they knew their names, addresses, contact info, campaign contributions, etc., would turn up soon in a report for all the world to see – including their friendly local newspaper reporters?

One can argue that the life of every public official in Massachusetts would become easier if the legislature enacted a bill instituting a Hiring Influence Reporting System.

Think about it. For the first time in history, some people would be reluctant to ask their elected representatives for help getting on the public payroll because their names would be published, whether they got the job or not!

If successful, they’d find it hard to keep up the front that they got it fair and square.

If unsuccessful, the failed job candidate would suffer the judgment of his peers that either his politician-sponsor didn’t try very hard to get him the job, or, worse, that the politician-sponsor earnestly tried but couldn’t put him over the top because he was a weak candidate.

The threat of public scorn or diminishment might be enough to actually compel some folks to apply only for those public jobs they were qualified for and had a chance of winning on their merits alone, or to concentrate their job hunting efforts in the private sector.

In either event, the result would be fewer employment-challenged constituents going the political route.

Imagine the typical state senator or representative, post-enactment of the Hiring Influence Reporting statute.

The patronage game has changed. Conversations between politicians and their old friends are now shadowed by a new sense of caution.

“Of course, I’ll help your cousin’s kid get that job at the courthouse,” says Senator X. “But are you sure you want me to do that? There’s a good chance now that your name will wind up in the papers and on the web -- and your cousin and her kid’s name, too.”

“Ummm, right,” moans the old friend. “Let me think about it some more. This cousin, she’s not that close to me.”

Senator X smiles and says to himself: “Thank you, new reporting system!”

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