patronage

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Related to Political patronage: Patron system

Patronage

The practice or custom observed by a political official of filling government positions with qualified employees of his or her own choosing.

When the candidate of a political party wins an election, the newly elected official has the right to appoint a certain numbers of persons to jobs in the government. This is the essence of the patronage system, also known as the spoils system ("To the victor go the spoils"): appointing persons to government positions on the basis of political support and work rather than on merit, as measured by objective criteria. Though the patronage system exists at all levels of U.S. government, the number of positions that are available through patronage has decreased dramatically since the 1880s.

The patronage system thrived in the U.S. federal government until 1883. In 1820 Congress limited federal administrators to four-year terms, leading to constant turnover. By the 1860s and the Civil War, patronage had led to widespread inefficiency and political corruption. Where patronage had once been confined to the cabinet, department heads, and foreign ambassadorships, by the 1860s low-level government positions were subject to patronage. The loss of a presidential election by a political party signaled wholesale turnover in the federal government. When President Benjamin Harrison took office in 1889, 31,000 federal postmaster positions changed hands.

The assassination of President james garfield in 1881 by a disgruntled office seeker who did not receive a political appointment spurred Congress to pass the Civil Service Act, or Pendleton Act of 1883 (5 U.S.C.A. § 1101 et seq.). The act, which at the time only applied to 10 percent of the federal workforce, created a Civil Service Commission and advocated a merit system for the selection of government employees. By 1980, 90 percent of federal positions had become part of the civil service system. In addition, the passage in 1939 of the Hatch Act (53 Stat. 1147) curtailed or restricted most partisan political activities of federal employees.

State and local governments have employed large patronage systems. Big-city political machines in places such as New York, Boston, and Chicago thrived in the late nineteenth century. A patronage system not only rewards political supporters for past support, it also encourages future support, because persons who have a patronage job try to retain it by campaigning for the party at the next election.

Large-scale patronage systems declined steadily during the twentieth century. During the Progressive Era (1900–1920), "good government" reformers overthrew political machines and installed civil service systems. Chicago, under Mayor Richard J. Daley, remained the last bastion of patronage, existing in its purest form until the late 1970s.

Patronage has its defenders. It is a way to maintain a strong political organization by offering campaign workers rewards. More importantly, patronage puts people into government who agree with the political agenda of the victor. Cooperation, loyalty, and trust flow from this arrangement. Finally, patronage guarantees some turnover, bringing new people and new ideas into the system.

Opponents have long agreed that patronage is acceptable at the highest levels of government. Presidents, governors, and mayors are entitled to select their cabinet and department heads. However, history indicates that patronage systems extending far down the organizational chain are susceptible to inefficiency and corruption.

Congress took another look at patronage issues in the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (92 Stat. 1121–1131, 5 U.S.C.A. 1201–1209). Concerned that federal bureaucrats were too independent and unresponsive to elected officials, the act replaced the Civil Service Commission with the Office of Personnel Management, under closer control of the president. The act also created the Senior Executive Service, which gives the president greater discretion in reassigning top officials to departments and agencies.

Cross-references

Bureaucracy; Civil Service; Tammany Hall.

patronage

(Power to appoint jobs), noun advantage, assistance, auctoritas, authority, backing, choice, control, controlling power, directing agency, dominance, favor, good offices, gratia, indulgentia, influence, patrocinium, persuasion, position of influence, power, praesidium, predominance, preference, right of choice, selection, sway

patronage

(Support), noun aid, assistance, backing, care, commendation, commercial backing, cordial assissance, countenance, encouragement, favor, friendly interrst, friendship, guardianship, guidance, help, influence, protection, protectorship, recommendation, special privileges, sponsorship, support, tutelage
See also: advantage, advocacy, aid, assistance, auspices, charge, charity, commerce, control, custody, favor, goodwill, guidance, help, nepotism, protection, safekeeping, sanction, supervision, support, trade

PATRONAGE. The right of appointing to office; as the patronage of the president of the United States, if abused, may endanger the liberties of the people.
     2. In the ecclesiastical law, it signifies the right of presentation to a church or ecclesiastical benefice. 2 Bl. Com. 21.

References in periodicals archive ?
What we have here (are) fundamentally decent people utterly without a moral compass in a field awash with political patronage.
All those people involved in her religious conversion should be arrested and put behind bars and all involved in the gang rape of this lady should be tried under 376 D which calls for minimum 20 years imprisonment and also life and also the police of that area and local leaders should also be tried under 120 B criminal conspiracy and 34 common intention, because crimes like this cannot happen without political patronage and police connivance," said Singh.
After all, the PML (N) too is no stranger to political patronage that indeed has over the time become a distinctive hallmark of our democratic order of whatever little credentials it is.
They could be a very potent factor but certainly not the only one, as political patronage of criminals and gangsters, incompetence of police and government's inability to restore law and order are also some of the factors that should be taken into account.
The gathering first heard from broadcaster Tom McGuirk who said political patronage has to end in Ireland.
Reshuffles in state institutions have been expected by analysts before the elections in a country where political patronage plays a major role.
He called for democratic election in Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to end what he alleged was the political patronage.
What de Wl doesn't say is that the only way such a "structural transformation" can take place is to "dismantle" this deeply corrupt and grossly self-enriching regime, as well as its vast political patronage system, and end the unconstrained brutality of the "security institutions" that preserve the regime's hold on power.
Pensado aims to expand on the history of student activism and conservative reactions by examining Mexico's postwar student culture, political patronage, and violence in Mexico City after the 1940s, particularly highlighting the "long sixties" (1956-ca.
The troika has bailed out Greece to the tune of 240 billion euros ($320 billion)but has warned that it will stop paying out the money unless Athens pushes forward with reforming a corruption-prone state apparatus where hiring is often driven by political patronage.
The election was always expected to be closely fought, and the results contested, as political patronage is huge in Albania - with the winners historically undertaking a wholesale clearance of civil servants/bureaucrats.
Their desire to join PML is essentially aimed at seeking political patronage in one or the other form.