It's not what you know ...

Jonathan Martin at Politico notices that we’re starting to see some familiar names around the White House these days, and not just because Barack Obama rehired a big chunk of the Clinton administration staff.  For those who didn’t get hired by Bill Clinton back in the day, a famous name can help get a slot in the executive branch.  The Obama administration protests that they have to be qualified, but apparently that includes having influential relatives in DC:

Need a job? Under President Barack Obama, as with presidents before him, it doesn’t hurt to have the right last name.

Obama’s promise of changing Washington hasn’t extended to banishing the age-old practice of giving plum posts to relatives of your top supporters — as he’s done with the relatives of a half-dozen well-connected Democrats.

Obama promised Hope and Change, and instead he’s delivering Chicago-sur-le-Beltway.  Whose relatives got their lucky break?  It’s a veritable Who’s Who of Democratic influence:

  • Cameron Kerry, the brother of an early Obama backer, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who has been tapped as chief counsel at the Commerce Department
  • Mignon Clyburn, daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who received a coveted appointment to the Federal Communications Commission
  • David Hamilton, nephew of former congressman and Democratic elder statesman Lee Hamilton, who was appointed to an appellate judgeship
  • Courtney Gregoire, daughter of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who last week was tapped as director of legislative affairs at Commerce
  • Laurie Mikva, daughter of legendary former Chicago judge and Congressman Abner Mikva, who was appointed to the board of the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to low-income people
  • Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who is a special adviser on health care to OMB Director Peter Orszag

Instead of reforming government and “changing the way Washington does business,” President Obama has amplified the patronage system.  Martin notes that it’s not exactly Tammany Hall, and he’s right.  It does, however, keep more politicians personally beholden to Obama and reduce the independence of both the appointee and their more notable relatives in office.  Clearly, these are not just coincidental, but payoffs for political support.

Anyone with at least a passing familiarity with Chicago or Beltway politics will know that this is the same old nepotism, and anyone who has studied Obama’s rhetoric and actions knows it to be the same old hypocrisy on government reform.

Update: Add Lindsay Daschle at the Department of Agriculture.  The daughter of former Senator and erstwhile candidate for the HHS Cabinet position Tom Daschle works at Ag as the “Confidential Assistant to the Secretary”.  What the heck is a “Confidential Assistant”?  Is that a position that the Secretary can disavow if Ms. Daschle’s mission gets exposed?