Monday, November 11, 2002

Patronage, Romney-style. Just in case there were any doubts, Mitt Romney has said it twice since becoming governor-elect last Tuesday: his crusade against patronage was not meant to apply to his political allies, just to people who have to work for a living.

Here's the relevant excerpt from Rick Klein's piece in last Thursday's Globe:

Romney, who railed against patronage appointments on the campaign trail, also sought to clarify to reporters yesterday what role people with political connections will play in his administration. He said he expects to appoint some people with political experience and connections to top posts in his administration. But for lower-level workers, he said that ties to political leaders or his campaign will be a disadvantage, not an advantage.

"I will look for people to get jobs based on what they know, not who they know," Romney said. "I want people who are secretaries of the various executive offices -- some of them -- to have substantial political experience. But as we look down those organizations, and as we go into middle management, the people driving the trucks and clearing the snow, there's no reason to have political association with those kinds of jobs."

Then there's this, from Yvonne Abraham's front-page interview with Romney published in the Sunday Globe:

He was also reluctant to discuss what his new administration would look like. The Republican, who railed against patronage on the campaign trail, was very specific in his definition of the term on Friday. He said his top staffers would include some of the people who had worked on his campaign, people with extensive political experience, and with whom he had worked for a long time. Nothing wrong with that, he said.

"Where patronage begins, in my view, is where you start going down into the positions inside a government, where that kind of political experience is not necessary,'' he said. ''And yet where campaign workers and members of the party and perhaps even contributors find themselves getting jobs in the courts, or the Turnpike Authority, where it's clear political history is being rewarded.''

For applicants for those positions, Romney said, ''a political history, or a relative in politics, will be a burden they will have to overcome.''

Romney couldn't have been more clear. If you're an aspiring bureaucrat, especially an aspiring top-level bureaucrat, you'd better have made your bones getting Romney elected. But if you're down on your luck and looking for a job as a toll-taker, a truck-driver, and the like, well, you can fill out an application just like anybody else, pal.

It's easy to be for a meritocracy when it only applies to people you don't know.

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