Pinstripe Patronage: Political Favoritism from the Clubhouse to the White House and Beyond

Overview

Is political patronage the dark underbelly of American politics, whose practitioners are fortunate to keep one step ahead of the sheriff? Or is it an essential ingredient of effective governance, rewarding and cementing loyalty while greasing the gears of government?

Political patronage—awarding discretionary favors in exchange for political support—is alive and well in twenty-first-century America. But patronage has changed. Instead of the Christmas turkey, political leaders ...

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Overview

Is political patronage the dark underbelly of American politics, whose practitioners are fortunate to keep one step ahead of the sheriff? Or is it an essential ingredient of effective governance, rewarding and cementing loyalty while greasing the gears of government?

Political patronage—awarding discretionary favors in exchange for political support—is alive and well in twenty-first-century America. But patronage has changed. Instead of the Christmas turkey, political leaders now reward political supporters with billion-dollar contracts, and they have outsourced everything from garbage collection to national security.

This new landscape is what the Tolchins call “pinstripe patronage,” and it includes the privatization of services previously conducted by government; earmarks, which are government grants specified for the use of an individual, corporation, or community; and the expansion of hybrid agencies, with highly paid salaries for top executives. “Pinstripe patronage” benefits those more at home in a boardroom than an assembly line, and it often affects foreign policy more than domestic policy.

The patronage system is the way that things have worked for a long time—in politics and government, the business community, and even in families. But in the wake of travesties in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on the world economic scene, seasoned political writers Susan and Marty Tolchin contend it may be time to trade pinstripes for prison stripes and to snap some suspenders.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The process of patronage--performing favors and offering lucrative positions or rewards to people who raise money or offer service--has always been a part of government, but not to the extent that it is in American politics today, argue the Tolchins in this fascinating exposé. Once defined by reliable blue-collar jobs and gifts of food to the poor, patronage has moved into the boardroom and grown exponentially in worth and influence. What's particularly troubling in an era of growing deficits and cries for "smaller government" is that responsibilities once undertaken by the state are being outsourced, often without bidding, to private companies with no oversight or qualification beyond their campaign contributions. The Tolchins have studied Washington for years and it shows in a thoughtfully researched exploration of a radically changing game. Though the authors acknowledge the pros and cons of their subject, they are surprisingly nonpartisan and free of judgment; they're not here to condemn, but rather to call for a return to transparency, and readers will likely be fascinated and frightened in equal measure, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
What differentiates good patronage from bad patronage? Marty and Sue Tolchin’s book lays it all out for the interested voter.
Library Journal
As government keeps shrinking, hardly anyone is left to guard the public. It is no longer a case of the fox guarding the henhouse; the foxes have moved right in." Political writers Martin Tolchin (founder, The Hill) and Susan Tolchin (public policy, George Mason Univ.; The Angry American: How Voter Rage Is Changing the Nation) point this out in their balanced look at the evolution of political patronage from the party boss days of New York's Tammany Hall and Chicago's Richard Daley's machine to today's "pinstripe patronage," which delivers outsourced services and no-bid contracts as rewards to generous campaign contributors. Describing patronage systems from mayors' offices to the White House, the authors accept that patronage can build community relationships but are critical of abuses of power and lack of transparency, particularly in the judicial systems. The authors also cite such patronage examples as the extensive use of private contractors like Haliburton in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They point out that, with no supervision of these private enterprises taking over government services, citizens have no recourse when costs are not controlled or there is abuse of power. VERDICT Readers who follow politics, government, and campaign finance reform will enjoy this book. Recommended.—Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594515927
  • Publisher: Paradigm Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Tolchin capped a forty-year career at The New York Times, where he reported on Congress and politics, by becoming founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Hill newspaper. He also was the founding senior publisher and editor of Politico. He is now a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Susan J. Tolchin is Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and the author of The Angry American: How Voter Rage is Changing the Nation (Westview Press, 1996 and 1998), and Women in the U.S. Congress, among several other books.

Together the Tolchins have written seven previous books, most recently, A World Ignited: How Apostles of Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Hatred Torch the Globe (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006) and Glass Houses: Congressional Ethics and the Politics of Venom (Westview Press, 2009—new in paperback).

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