Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

April 25, 2014

Patronage alive in Illinois

(Continued)

Admittedly, things aren’t as bad as they once were.

Back when I first started covering Illinois politics in the 1980s, state prison guards, secretaries, laboratory technicians and a whole host of run-of-the-mill state jobs were hired in part through the offices of a local GOP county chairmen.

It was a bad practice that made for a worse workforce.

Job applicants felt compelled to give money to politicians. State workers felt compelled to continue to give once they had their jobs. And working for the local political party, rather than doing good work, was seen as a way to advance in your government job.

Even today, politicians largely are dependent on government workers to do their political bidding.

Last year, the Better Government Association investigated who was passing nominating petitions for Madigan.

They found that 17 of 30 people who passed petitions worked for government and another 12 had at one time worked for government.

That’s right, 29 out of 30.

Political patronage remains a pernicious problem in the Land of Lincoln.

It’s time our state leaders consider hiring and promoting the best people rather than the most politically subservient.

It won’t happen just by changing laws, but by changing the political culture that dominates Springfield.

And that will be a tough row to hoe.

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and the journalist in residence at the Illinois Policy Institute. He can be reached at sreeder@illinoispolicy.org.

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