How do people get jobs in Washington? Do you have to volunteer with a political campaign that happens to win and then they reward you with a job or is there some other way? How many people does a new administration end up hiring? Do people lose their jobs when their guy loses an election? What are the best jobs and how much do they pay?
You seem to be describing the so-called “spoils system”, where politicians of the past would generously reward their supporters with cushy government jobs. The merit-based civil service system was designed to significantly reduce that. I don’t think Obama can easily up and make you an FBI agent or a federal park ranger as a reward for making a generou$$$ donation to his campaign.
It depends what you mean by “jobs in Washington.” If you’re talking about getting on an elected politician’s staff, most of those people will come from the senior ranks of the campaign. That is true both for Congresscritters and the White House. Lower level staff positions will be filled the usual way, by posting job ads and interviewing candidates.
For hires in the executive administration, there are basically three categories: the presidential staff (Executive Office of the President) which is largely composed of whomever the President wants; political appointees (the cabinet and their undersecretaries and so forth) many of whom must be confirmed by the Senate; and career civil service and military officers.
Most EOP staffers are hired on an ad hoc basis. Many of them will be from the campaign ranks, others will be hired based on recommendation, still others may be leftovers from previous administrations. The EOP as a whole comprises about 2000 people.
Political appointees are a tougher job to get. Many of these positions require Senate approval. (PAS appointments.) There are over 1000 PAS jobs to be filled by every new president. The big ones (senior cabinet officials) will go to trusted people with many years of experience in government, or to your primary rival that you want to shut up. The subcabinet stuff tends to go to senior-level civil service workers, private individuals who helped raise a lot of money for the campaign, and ad hoc appointees who apply through an application process.
There’s also a couple hundred ambassadors that need to be appointed. The tough ones (Iraq, Russia, UN) will go to career State Department officials. The ones on warm tropical islands may go to other people.
Finally, the bulk of the executive branch consists of people in the civil service and the military. The Office of Personnel Management is in charge of hiring for the competitive civil service. The president does not have power to influence hiring or firing decisions in the competitive service, due to reforms beginning in the 20th century that shifted the civil service away from a sinecure system to a more merit-bases system.
No, but it works is subtler ways. First, you are correct. The spoils system is over. If the guy wanting to be a park ranger’s only experience is that he once drank beer in a national park, then game over. Such an appointment would throw up too many alarm bells. But let’s assume that the guy has skills that meet the qualifications for the position and he wants a little “help.” That’s done all of the time.
Now, Obama or Biden or anyone that high up would never be involved. Elected officials have more important things to do than that. But say his dream job was to be a park ranger at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. By making that big donation, he will have made many contacts.
Probably a DNC chairman’s underling would make a phone call to someone who would make a phone call to someone to where a message would be delivered to the HR personnel in charge of hiring park rangers for Mt. Rushmore to give this guy “special attention” and that he is a “very qualified” candidate.
Cite for…any of this?
The HR people in charge of hiring park rangers is the OPM.
I’m not gonna say it never happens, but it doesn’t happen frequently. The OPM is required by law to maintain transparency in hiring decisions and standards. If this sort of thing were common in the competitive civil service, you could expect regular scandals and whistleblowing.
Yea, even putting aside the effectiveness of transparency measures, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. How many people that are rich enough to make large donations to political candidates aspire to leverage their wealth to get piddling job in civil service?
A recommendation from the President will go a long way towards any job. But they only have a few appointments they can just hand out. Volunteering for a campaign won’t get you an ambassadorship though. They can certainly pass the word to a congressman or senator and secure a job in their office.
I don’t have a cite, but being involved in low level state politics, I’ve seen it happen for state and federal civil service jobs. I know that’s not kosher for a debate, but it’s not like they set out a manual for getting friends a civil service job.
And it’s usually not the big donor who wants the job. He wants the job for his ne’er do well son or nephew to get his ass off of the couch.
The OP is actually asking about the Plum Book
As done in private industry all the time.
Obtaining a federal position in civil service requires meeting the requirements for the position outlined by OPM. They really is no way around that these days. If you don’t meet basic quals, forget it. However, the more quals you have for a position, the higher you show up in hiring process. If you “make the cert” it’s at that point when someone puts in a “good word” about you that the influence may have some effect. Key word is may. In the past (as in before Bush II) obtaining a federal job was tough. Today that “toughness” factor is on a logarithmic scale. With across the board mandatory budget cuts kicking in in January, that logarithmic scale will take on a steeper part of the curve.
Others have hit on the basic message: most people in Washington are civil service types, but there is a layer of political appointee positions that tend to turn over after elections. Here is a OPM handbook with more details than you’d ever want. That one is from 2008.
The pay for garden-variety civil service (non-political appointee) employees goes from $20 grand to around $130 grand or so. Most political appointees would probably make in the range of $100,000 to just under $200,000 for cabinet-level positions. Again, these aren’t just dolts off the street getting cushy jobs. Yes, there may be political connections, but these jobs have serious responsibilities and tend to have long hours and a lot of pressure. Plus, DC is usually in the top five or ten most expensive areas to live in the US.
I’ve known more than a handful of people who have taken substantial pay cuts in order to become political appointees.