A Job Is a Powerful Incentive

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Steven Frias takes another instructive look at Rhode Island’s political history:

The scramble for patronage began. Under Green, about one-third of legislators were given state jobs while they served in the General Assembly. The trading of votes for jobs became apparent. One Republican senator was given a state job after he voted to confirm Green’s department directors. House Republican Leader Walter Curry was given a Superior Court judgeship after he assisted Green in getting most of his legislative agenda through the House of Representatives. The three senators on the recount committee were rewarded with state jobs, one of them a District Court judgeship.

The most important political event in 20th century Rhode Island history, the Coup of 1935 may have been furthered by the promise of state jobs for state legislators.

Read the whole thing.  One can only hope that, as the picture of Rhode Island corruption becomes clearer and clearer the opportunity for change will get better and better, but it’s going to take concerted effort and a news media that is more disgusted by the corruption than by the Republican brand.  (That’s not to say that the party or, especially, particular Republicans are the answer, but the news media tends to lump everybody who isn’t an insider with the GOP for the purposes of bashing them.)

The problem isn’t just job trading, though.  It’s contract trading, welfare trading, policy trading, access trading, and any other kind of trading that politicians can turn into a buck.  And if that sort of corruption isn’t inevitable with a liberal/progressive style of governance (which I think it is), then it’s at least inextricably interwoven in Rhode Island.



  • milfoil

    The last paragraph of this Article is right on. Add to the problem the State Agencies encouraging “non-profit” executive directors and professional staff to serve on each other’s Boards and to provide consulting to each other paid for with government “grants.” We should also recognize the term “non-profit” for many of these organizations is a misnomer. Many are better described as social enterprises that do not pay income taxes. While “profits” can’t go to private shareholders by law, the “profits” end up in the form of executive salaries and perks that are bloated and out of touch with the value of work actually done. “Profits” also get frittered away in waste, bad investment decisions and overspending at these social enterprises because there is very limited accountability.

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