Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Clout's In The Cradle

"He`s just dumb as a rock. If his name were Richard M. Camper, he`d be working in the post office."
-- Rob Warden, editor of Chicago Lawyer,
Anyone who has spent more than airport layover time in Chicago knows that politics, power and privileged in my former home are dynastic.  As you or I might leave a stamp collection or our car to the kids, in the Daley family, clout is bequeathed.  Same with the Jackson family.  And the Mells.  And the Madigans.  And the Strogers,  And the so forths.  And the so ons.  

Of course, like any other kind of inherited wealth, the blood tends to run thin by the third generation. (or, to quote Jack Donaghy) --
We are an immigrant nation! The first generation works their fingers to the bone making things, the next generation goes to college and innovates new ideas, the third generation... snowboards and takes improv classes.
-- but to this day, if you crack open a copy of Mike Royko's indispensable "Boss" you will be amazed at how little the last names of the key players have changed.

Chicago is so proficient at the art of clout that we had an Alderman -- Isaac Carothers Jr. -- who was convicted and did a two year bit for virtually the same crime his father -- Isaac Carothers Sr. -- committed when he was an Alderman. When last seen, former-alderman and ex-offender Isaac the Younger was... wait for it... kicking around the idea of running for a seat on the Cook County board!

Back before I figured out that almost no one was interested in the subject, I used to write a lot about this particular aspect of Chicago/Illinois politics.

And so, with apologies to Harry Chapin...


Rat's In The Boodle

A child arrived just the other day,
Not on the clout list, but dat's ok,
But there were plans to hatch and bribes to pay,
He learned to cheat while I was away
He was scamming 'fore I knew it and as he grew
He'd say "I'm going to be like you Dad,
An Al-der-man just like you."
Chorus :
Another rat's in the boodle,
Nobody'd believe dis shit
"When you gonna run son?" "I don't know when."
"We'll get together then,
We'll get you on da clout list then."
My son turned ten just the other night
Showed him how to rig a vote up good 'n tight.
Will you teach me good and bad?
I said, "Not today,
I got thumbs to bend." He said, "Dat's OK."
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
Said, "I'm going to be like him, yeah.
An Al-der-man just like him."
Chorus :
Another rat's in the boodle,
Nobody'd believe dis shit
"When you gonna run son?" "I don't know when."
"We'll get together then,
We'll get you on da clout list then."
He got into office just the other day,
Another Daley-man, and I just had to say,
"Son, I'm proud of you, now about my bail..."
He shook his head (looks like I stay in jail)
"What I'd really like, dad, is your sucker list.
I'm in need of some ducats dat won't be missed."
Chorus :
Another rat's in the boodle,
Nobody'd believe dis shit
"When you gonna run son?" "I don't know when."
"We'll get together then,
We'll get you on da clout list then."
I've since made parole, but now my son's been popped
I called him up to see how he copped
"I'd like to see you, if you don't mind."
He said, "Don't say nuthin weird 'cause they bugged this line.
Let's just say my new "job's" a hassle and da "kids" have da "flu"
But it's sure nice talking you Dad, it's been real nice talking to you."
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me,
An Al-der-man just like me.
Chorus :
Another rat's in the boodle,
Nobody'd believe dis shit
"When you gonna run son?" "I don't know when."
"We'll get together then,
We'll get you on da clout list then."

So, as longtime readers know, I am a great believer that Clout, in all of its many mutations and variations, rules our world.  And when you've worked long enough within whispering distance of its global headquarters you get so you expect to see it everywhere you look, and you are rarely disappointed. So imagine my complete lack of surprise at seeing this in The Daily Beast:
Get Elected, Get Your Kids Rich: Washington Is Spoiled Rotten

A governor’s daughter is made CEO without a MBA. A senator’s son starts a hedge fund right out of college. Democrats have joined Republicans in the new nepotism.

Joe Manchin’s daughter Heather was looking for a job. The now-senator and one-time governor of West Virginia was only a state level rep when he ran into Milan Pushkar—the head of Mylan Inc., a Fortune 500 pharmaceuticals company—at a West Virginia University basketball game [1]. Heather was hired for an entry-level position at the company soon after. Records show Mylan benefitted from millions of dollars worth of corporate tax breaks in the state during Manchin’s gubernatorial tenure. [2] And these days, after stints as Mylan’s director of government relations and strategic development, Heather Bresch (née Manchin) is the company’s CEO, one of Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business [3]. All this without even an MBA—a 2008 investigation found that Bresch did not actually earn her degree from WVU as claimed. Officials had altered her official records and covered up for it, perhaps motivated by Mylan’s lucrative relationship with the University—co-founder Pushkar (Bresch’s business world fairy godfather) donated over $20 million [4] and had the football field named after him. [5]

Connected children of political families catching a break is something we Americans are plenty used to—there would be no Kennedy or Bush dynasties without the public’s acceptance that some people just raise their kids up all square-jawed and rolled shirtsleeves, ready to run for office. But the nexus of private business and politics is always one that’s skated over lightly in high school civics classes. Perhaps that’s why there was so much consternation over the recent revelations that Wall Street banks had hired the children of prominent Chinese politicians with hopes of currying favor with those who wield power over business decisions in the rising economic superpower. The hiring of so-called “Chinese Princelings” has been a widespread one in the banking community; JPMorgan Chase had a “Sons and Daughters” program [6] that separated applications of Chinese elites’ children from the wider pool and held them to less rigorous standards. Documents have been uncovered indicating that the bank directly tracked the hiring of influencers’ children to the success of business deals.
OK, two corrections.

First, what in the name of Whispering Vic Reyes do you mean, "Democrats have joined Republicans in the new nepotism."  Democrats, especially big city party bosses, pioneered modern political nepotism and cronyism.  Historically this was part of the bargain the Democratic Party struck with its largely-working-class voters (and even many of its would-be reformers): the Party was given enormous political power that would otherwise have be wielded almost exclusivity by and for established monies interests and, in exchange, the hoi polloi got decent jobs, some material improvements to their communities and better opportunities for their kids.  Richard J. Daley was explicit about why, despite its obvious corruptions and often-overt racism, he was 100% loyal to the Democratic Party: because it was the only party that would have let someone like Richard J. Daley join and rise to a position of influence (can't find the exact quote I was looking for at this time.)  Sayeth Richard the First:
The Democratic Party is the party that opened its arms. We opened them to every nationality, every creed. We opened them to the immigrants. The Democratic Party is the party of the people.
This was something up with which the average voter is usually willing to put...right up until the rich dauphins of inherited privilege start yapping about "merit", sneering at our threadbare social safety net as a hammock for moochers, and lecturing the Great Unwashed on the subject of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps.  Once that starts happening, it's time for the pitchforks and torches.

Second, seriously, how in the name of Victoria Davey "Tori" Spelling could anyone write an entire article about nepotism in politics and the media without mentioning the amazing career of Young Luke Russert?  That's like "Moby Dick" without the whale.


gratuitous said...

What, you think Luke Russert just lucked into his current plum assignment because of who his daddy was? This is 'Merica; we don't got no royalty here.

I really have never gotten the notion that Tim "Pumpkinhead" Russert was some kind of paragon of journalistic professionalism. Any reporter who says his default setting was "off the record" whenever he picked up his phone is more suited to a profession with a backwards collar than ink-stained wretch.

OBS said...

I appreciate the effort but worst, earworm, EVAR!

steeve said...

The legendary journalist Tim Russert made social security his pet issue - studied it intensely over decades - and didn't know the first simple thing about it.

Anonymous said...

Kinda pisses me off...I pride myself on my song parodies, they're actually quite good. But whenever Driftglass undertakes to put one together, it's MUCH better. And seemingly effortless...