Given the complexities of job procurement and the fact that most legislators have little training in personnel, it would be be wise for legislators to be prohibited from participating in the process for public employment. Certainly if a legislator knows of a position they can inform a potential applicant and that is where they should end their efforts. Any further contact can be deemed influence pedaling and favoritism. Get away and stay away, the public’s confidence is already at a breaking point.
I certainly agree that legislative job recommendations can be corrupt and I might end up agreeing with you on a total ban on contact to prevent that corruption, but let me push back a little. I do think there are two sides to this question.
Do you ever get a phone call from a young person, a friend of a friend, or perhaps a former colleague that is out of work? Is it not good and honorable to take that call, sit with the person and help if you can? I have been taking those calls for my whole life and trying to help — long before I was an elected official and ever since. The positive words are mentoring and networking. Many colleges have formal offices to facilitate exactly this kind of activity.
Many people who are from successful families or who are graduates of good schools have access to a network of people who will refer them to job opportunities. I represent a diverse district which includes many people of limited means who lack access to those social networks. Actually, many, if not most, of the people who now contact my legislative office for help with employment issues fit that description. So, if I can help them network, I think I am doing something that’s good for the world. And I help them without regard for whether I know them or not.
I agree that there are risks of undue influence and I worry about that and am careful about it. But if legislators were to entirely refrain from helping job seekers, there would be something very normal and good lost. It may be enough and more sensible to disclose contacts.
By the way, if you favor prohibition on any positive contacts by legislators for job-seekers, would you extend the prohibition to any recommendation by a legislator even to a private employer? Many private employers do have interests before the legislature and the potential for influence peddling exists even there.
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