Is a ‘Revolving Door’ Corruption?


This post is inspired by a Gateway Pundit headline: CRIMINAL CORRUPTION: Biden’s Special Prosecutor of Trump is Corrupt and Conflicted – His Wife Produced Michelle Obama Documentary. No, this post isn’t about President Trump. I am raising a broader question: Is bringing in prior actors within one’s own party power structure writ large, corruption per se?

For several decades I worked in the national defense sector as first, a judge advocate in the Air Force, and afterward a lawyer, manager and executive for a national defense research contractor. During my career my employer, and other defense contractors, hired former government employees. The more senior these former government employees had been the more likely they were to be tapped for political appointments in several federal administrations. Some of our own contractor’s senior leadership who had not previously served in government were also tapped for political appointments.

One of my areas of emphasis as a lawyer was in the rules surrounding post-government employment. Over the years, they changed and were adjusted. Almost all of the changes were brought about by perceived workarounds of former government employees influencing decisions by their former colleagues in matters affecting their current employers. This came to be called the ‘revolving door’ as people were recycled in and out of government as administrations changed.

But the revolving door is not restricted to defense contractors. It exists whenever there is a role that an administration seeks to be carried out by (in its view) a capable (reliable) individual. If you think of political parties as a religious order the system becomes sensible. You might hire an atheist plumber, but you will not hire an atheist to instruct young novitiates. And so it is that whenever a discretionary position opens up within an administration, the person selected for the task will be a reliable member of the party in power. Hopefully, they will be capable, but of the two qualities — capability and reliability — reliability will always win out.

An argument can be made that when political operatives are making moves, reliability is capability, as the object is political. I won’t disagree. But I am also making the point that no administration (or at least rarely) appoints a capable person who they do not believe is also reliable. Thus party identity and history confers a quality of reliability to everyone, but it does not negate capability in anyone.

In the course of my career, I came to know a lot of political appointees. And these appointees served administrations of different political parties. Most of these individuals were capable and not clearly partisan — they focused on the job to be done. That may have been due to the national defense focus of most of the people I knew. Only one person who I knew and was appointed Secretary of Energy pursued an overtly progressive agenda — moving away from fossil energy. But even before he became secretary he had been promoting that agenda in his part of the organization. So his appointment was a good marriage between party politics and private preference. No matter how much I disagree with this approach as a matter of policy, I did not see this individual as “evolving” into a green nut due to political opportunity. His delusion had developed organically.

And so I come back to my opening question: Is bringing in prior actors within one’s own party power structure writ large, corruption per se? My answer is “no.” The power structure of the party has an outlook and a need. If the outlook is corrupt, then the party will look for someone to act corruptly to achieve the desired end. But if the outlook is not corrupt, then the selection of someone within the party to carry out the task, does not mean that the person so chosen is corrupt. And people who have performed tasks on behalf of the party will be the ones who perform tasks on behalf of the party in the future.

Honest belief in something untrue is not corruption. Dishonest belief in something untrue is corruption. As I have asserted before: parties are political structures in search of an ideology, not ideologies in search of a political structure. Party members picking other party members to carry out authorities they have gained through an electoral process is not, in and of itself, corrupt.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Textbook publishers are in the private sector, and they sell their products to the educators whom they serve.

    So, I don’t think the revolving-door issue is the same thing exactly. Ford’s purpose is to make cars that serve the needs of its customers. It’s the same with most textbook publishers who sell their textbooks to government schools, whether those are state colleges and universities or kindergarten through grade 12 public schools.

    Well, actually, it is the same thing. There is a deep connection there. What we read in the news media or in textbooks has been supplied by the government unless we go out of our way to find independent materials. The connection, however, isn’t illegal or improper in any way. We just need to keep it in mind at all times.

    We have the freedom to seek out news media and textbooks that were not written for the government’s purposes. And we all should do so if we cherish objectivity.

    And we need to always take care of the First Amendment because it is the only check and balance against government propaganda.

    But of course the “free market” becomes less free when large purchasers are involved, especially large GOVERNMENT purchasers. Such as the California school systems. Textbook publishers know that their wares have to be sufficiently “Woke” for California to buy them. If they aren’t, they lose a LOT of money. So they make their textbooks to suit California requirements, and smaller states/districts can like it or lump it.

    I think Texas also picks textbooks at the state level. At least that’s what I heard many years ago.

    I’m against it. But that’s what you tend to get when school funding is done at the state level.

    Even if it didnt start out that way, it might easily end up that way even if all school districts were “independent.” Because it costs less per unit to print a million of one textbook than a quarter-million each of 4 different books that different groups like. And thats going to be especially important to smaller buyers, as it already is today. Maybe a small school district can get a “Christian” textbook for $50, but if the California-approved book is $25 they might “have to” buy it anyway.

    People who are determined to keep their small school system independent of the big nationalized one will be at an economic disadvantage in a lot more ways than that. Textbook prices are among the least of their disadvantages.

    But it might be one of the things easiest to deal with. They can’t, for example, easily save money on their property taxes or something. But they might save a bundle if they buy cheaper textbooks.

    In real life it doesn’t seem to work that way for textbooks.   It sounds like you have never been around any school textbook wars.  The cost issue will be raised if it can be used as a weapon to keep wokish new textbooks out.  People who want to protect their local schools, public or private, will have very strong feelings about the content of the textbooks their children have. 

    But it reminds me of an instance at the two-room country school I attended in Nebraska.  This summer I returned to the area for the first time since 1995 and got to visit with a few people who I had last seen in 1963.  One person (the younger brother of one of my classmates) told of hearing about the time when one schoolboard member said that we didn’t need toilet paper in the outhouses, because catalog paper was good enough. I assured my classmate’s brother that we always had toilet paper when I went to school there, but I did remember a time when the topic came up.  A few of the kids were showing how you can make catalog paper soft and usable.  It took a lot of crumpling and recrumpling, and next thing all of us were trying to out-do each other at the art.   We were doing it as a sort of joke, but it was probably inspired by that one schoolboard member’s position, which I either had not known about or else had forgotten.  I didn’t remember the schoolboard member who had come up with that money-saving idea, but I remember his brother, who was the father of another of my friends.  It is not surprising to me that he could have had a brother like the one who wanted to save toilet-paper expenses.

    I think there is only one person left there of my parents’ generation.  My classmate’s mother is still living. She was just short of 100 years old when we were there this summer, still mentally sharp and still driving her own car, though she now lives in a senior-complex in town. Her hearing is somewhat diminished, but we had no trouble conversing.  When she heard through the grapevine that we were in the area she asked us to stop by, and it was during our reminiscences that the old toilet/catalog-paper issue came up.


    • #31
  2. kedavis Coolidge

    Not many catalogs come in the mail these days, especially not big ones.

    • #32
  3. Rodin Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Not many catalogs come in the mail these days, especially not big ones.

    Hmm, I’ve been sending them recycling bin, but in light of the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 maybe I should start keeping them. 

    • #33
  4. kedavis Coolidge

    Rodin (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Not many catalogs come in the mail these days, especially not big ones.

    Hmm, I’ve been sending them recycling bin, but in light of the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 maybe I should start keeping them.

    I compensated by buying a lot of the good stuff.  I think 12 32-roll packages of “Homeline” (Family Dollar store brand) and 8 12-packs of Quilted Northern.

    I have so much room now – 4,500 sq ft – I don’t even notice the space taken by these supplies.

    • #34
  5. Tex929rr Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    I think Texas also picks textbooks at the state level. At least that’s what I heard many years ago.

    I’m against it. But that’s what you tend to get when school funding is done at the state level.

    Texas offers a slate of approved textbooks for a given subject.  If a school district selects a textbook from the approved choices the state pays for it.

    Almost all of our kids use school provided laptops or iPads and the textbooks are accessed via an internet connection.  I assume the district (via the state) pays a licensing fee but I need to check with our superintendent.

    • #35
  6. Sisyphus Member

    The rules are very different depending on if one is talking about an appointee for a political position expected to champion political objectives, say, Secretaries of State, Defense, the Interior, a position expected to balance the political with the rule of law, like the Attorney General and the Inspectors General, or Science, like the Surgeon General. The standard is different when discussing the investigation of a political figure. There is a custom of making lists of candidates and conducting inter-party negotiations to arrive at a Kenneth Starr or Robert Mueller, figures considered scrupulously fair and minimally partisan. It is an inevitability of the tasks they are given that they will be painted as partisan afterward, rightly or wrongly. The media is so spectacularly slander-happy it takes a large, global, multi-lingual RSS-feed and complex filtering to even begin to sort this stuff out. Ramming through the appointment of a partisan hack with no consultation for a special prosecutor position is the DC infighting equivalent of war. Comparable to the Pelosi partisan kangaroo court assembled over J6.

    The State Department has the most political appointees of any federal organization, which follows logically given the executive’s primacy in diplomatic relations. At the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, a tent would be set up in the street on the west side of State Department HQ and President Clinton would proceed to the largest auditorium in the building to address the nation before a wildly enthusiastic crowd of political appointees. In Rome they would bribe crowds to cheer the emperor, in DC they are more careful. For a few dollars more, Trump could have filled out the crowd at his inauguration quite handsomely, but he doesn’t play the game.

    The Democrats are breaking all of the rules thinking that they can go full Long March on the American people. The GoPe is doing whatever they can to help and to tamp down and MAGA resistance. They sow the wind.

    • #36
  7. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Based upon this analysis would Justice Thomas be forced to retire or recuse whenever Trump comes up?

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Wrong. The corruption is the pervasive quantity and one-sidedness of the existing arrangements. This quantity and uni-direction leads to a corrupt culture. Do not lose sight of the forest by unreasonably focusing on a single tree. 

    • #37
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