Round Up the Usual Suspects

Monday - 1/12/2009, 4:00am EST

Right now, unless you are reading this in the dead of night, the streets of Washington are full of dedicated, determined and hungry men and women. They are making the rounds of their old federal haunts in search of jobs with the new administration.

Many of the searchers are former feds who held political appointments during the Clinton years. They are anxious to come in from the cold after 8 years outside government.

There are 7,946 patronage jobs available to the White House. They include everything from cabinet appointees to noncareer members of the Senior Executive Service (671 slots) and so-called Schedule Cs who serve in a confidential capacity. Most of the SES jobs pay from $153,000 to $177,000. Cabinet level jobs pay more, Schedule C jobs pay less. Members are eligible for the excellent federal health program and the TSP, the federal 401(k) plan.

The former appointees typically contact their old agency for leads, and former contacts for informal, but vital, information such as whose ring must be kissed!

It happens every time a new party takes control of the White House.

These people looking for a second bite at the federal job apple are known (as of now) as The Usual Suspects.

Getting a political job with a new administration, any new administration, isn't easy. There are a lot more applicants than there are jobs. But to qualify for one of the so-call Plum jobs there are some things (including a lotta luck) you must bring to the table to sell yourself.

They include:

    The IOU Candidate - These people come armed with a recommendation/endorsement from somebody with a lot of political juice. As in Who-Sent-You? Ideally their sponsor is someone who has worked long and hard for the party that is dispensing the patronage. Maybe somebody who has also given lots of money to a campaign. Or someone who has worked long and hard for the party in power. Someone who has a political IOU they are willing to cash to get you a job. Then of course, you owe them!

    The Superstar - Superstars have backgrounds, credentials and sometimes fame that comes in handy. This star quality gives them instant recognition. That could make it easier for them to get the job done. And sometimes a special interest group that wants to be represented in the corridors of power.

    The Godfather - This is someone who is named, often over the objections of the agency head, to babysit (and sometimes tattle on) other politicals in the department. Including the cabinet secretary. This person is loyal to and reports to the White House outside regular channels.

    The Usual Suspects - These are people with nerves of steel and egos that in some cases deserve their own zip code. They have real, or imagined, political connections in some cases. Mostly, they don't have a political angel, so they do it themselves. They can create or enhance a reputation for expertise in the field in question. Most have been in government before in political jobs.

      It happens with every change in administration but most especially when the party in power shifts, as in Carter-to-Reagan, Bush-to-Clinton, Clinton-to-Bush, or Bush-to-Obama.

      The motives of The Usual Suspects vary, according to career feds who have known and worked for them.

      Some, after 4 to 8 years in the private sector wilderness, want a safe government job with lots of benefits. Others genuinely want to serve. Others have scores to settle, either with outside constituent groups they don't like or with career employees with whom they tangled in a previous incarnation.

      Typically they don't have a heavyweight sponsor, and their reputation outside their field is, well not star class. But most of them are smart, loyal and have been-there-done-that. And would like to do it again. For a variety of reasons.

      For a look at the available jobs, agency by agency, and who is in them now, click here. (pdf)

      Nearly Useless Factoid

      More couples split up in January than in any other month of the year.

      To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com