Report: Gov. Wilson Provided Jobs to Former Presidential Campaign Aides
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Gov. Pete Wilson provided state jobs for more than two dozen aides to his failed presidential bid, staff additions that will cost taxpayers $1.3 million, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
Almost half of the appointees were former state workers who got promotions and salary boosts averaging 32 percent when they returned to government jobs, the paper said.
``We make no apologies whatsoever for the fact that good staff people have gone from government service onto this presidential campaign and then have come back,″ said Sean Walsh, Wilson’s press secretary.
``It’s good for the people of California. If there were people in the campaign that were pretty good and you had slots that were open in state government ... you try and snatch them up,″ said Walsh.
Walsh left state government for five months to serve on the campaign and resumed his old position with a $10,000-a-year raise, to $84,996.
Wilson, who quit the presidential campaign in September, declined to be interviewed about his appointments. Officials in the governor’s office told the Times that workers were not promised jobs as rewards for campaigning and that all the raises and promotions were based on merit.
The campaign, the officials said, gave Wilson an opportunity to observe closely the skills and talents of individuals he wanted to bring into or keep in state government.
The Wilson administration also found jobs for more than a dozen former political aides who had not worked in state government, the Times found. Some got new positions paying $35,000 to nearly $100,000 a year.
The Times found that the governor pulled many of his most trusted aides from state service until he quit the race _ a difficult economic period for the state during which he had pushed to eliminate cost-of-living increases for state workers and imposed a hiring freeze.
``He is demonstrating that it is more important to have loyalty to the politician than to the people,″ said Drew Mendelson, a spokesman for California State Employees Association. ``He is reinstituting a system that we thought long dead, of patronage, of spoils.″
Robert Fellmeth, director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Public Interest Law, said it is common for governors to give jobs to key political aides.
But he questioned the recent salary increases because they appeared to be rewards for campaign work.
``The key here is quid pro quo,″ Fellmeth said. ``Because they have contributed their time, energy and resources in terms of the political campaign, they get something that other good state workers don’t get.″