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assessments. In several cases, persons have been given the alternative of retiring from a committee or a position, and an indirect source of pressure upon employees has, in such cases, been removed.
In the civil service of the Government at present, outside of the presidential offices, there is left subject to the extension of the competitive system only the body of fourth-class postmasters, and a few isolated and much smaller classes. We hope that in the course of a few years these exceptions to the law will disappear, and we believe that four years more of such enforcement of the whole civil service law as there has been under President Roosevelt's administration, will relieve the Civil Service Commission from the necessity of even investigating charges of the coerced payment of political assessments.
Mr. Ansley Wilcox:
I desire to call the attention to one method which Commissioner Greene mentioned as a possible means of suppressing political assessments, which I think is deserving of more credit than he seemed disposed to give and possibly can be carried out more efficaciously than he thought. I refer to publicity, as a means of regulating collections from employees. In this connection let me call attention to a suggestion made by the New York State Civil Service Commission, in their Annual Report of a year ago, which took this definite form: That all public employees should be required, in connection with their vouchers for January pay, to file a sworn statement answering certain questions in detail, and stating specifically all money paid for political purposes or assessments, directly or indirectly, during the previous year. The inquiry was intended to be searching, covering assessments paid to political clubs, frequently resorted to as a means of getting money out of employees. The disbursing officer was forbidden to pay the January salary until the employee made affidavit in compliance with
these requirements. The suggestion of the State Commission was incorporated in a bill introduced in the State Legislature last year. It was not passed, but I hope that it will be passed, and believe that it would be of great value.
Mr. Charles B. Wilby:
The right of an American citizen to do as he pleases and to contribute, if he wants to, to the campaign funds of his political party will be infringed upon by legislatures, at least in my part of the country, with great hesitation.
Our Association has tried frequently to convict people of soliciting campaign funds from federal employees in the classified service, but we have not yet been able to do so in any instance.
The Republican Campaign Committee of our county have thus been deterred from sending their requests for contributions addressed to the Post Office, or to the other offices of the Government Building, where their victims are employed, but they now evade the law by sending their circulars to the residences of the federal servants. These circulars are duly signed by well-known officers of our local machine, but we can not reach them.
Federal employees tell me that if they refuse to contribute, in response to these circulars, they are subjected to all sorts of indignities, put at night work or other disagreeable service, and are in danger of being trapped into some slight dereliction of duty, for which they could be removed under the rules.
It seems to me that the only way by which these offenders can be reached is through the suggestion of Mr. Greene, by changing the law so as to make it an offense to use the mails in any way to solicit contributions. That being the only practical method by which the federal employee can be reached for solicitation, he would thus be relieved from direct coercion and left reasonably free to contribute whenever his enthusiasm for any political cause moved him to do so.
The Best Method of Regulating the Political
Activity of Public Employees.
HON. CYRIS D. FOSS, JR., OF THE PHILADELPHIA
CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION.
The problems that confront the friends of the Merit System are seldom either local or exceptional in their character. The obstacles that confront the militant champions of better government, whether in nation, state or city, do not vary much with time or place. While there are particular features from time to time that give an unusual aspect to some local situation, the great underlying abuses, on which are centered the attention alike of the student of political science and the active fighter in the campaign for civic betterment, are the same everywhere and are coming to be well understood. The problem is not only a constructive one to improve the form of government and the personnel of the public service, but also to disarm and so far as possible to drive from the field the natural enemies of the cause for which we stand.
In every campaign against an intrenched political machine there are a number of forces sure to be arrayed on the side of the old order of things. A great corruption fund furnished by the public service corporations, by favored contractors and from the assessment of officeholders; force and bribery and other frauds at elections, so general as to be a byword and so successful as to win many a close election; and finally a well-organized, welldisciplined and experienced political machine, whose membership is recruited primarily from the great army of public officeholders. In these three great forces we find the explanation of the defeat of efforts for better government and of citizens' movements on countless occasions. The initial advantages possessed by well-organ
ized graft and corruption and fraud are so numerous that private citizens, unskilled in political activity and unrewarded for their services, retire in disgust from the field and leave the management of public affairs to those not interested in their improvement and willing to profit by a continuance of the methods of the practical politician.
The old cry of “turn the rascals out” will appeal for a time and will stir up a community for a brief campaign, but, if permanent results are to be secured in the betterment of governmental conditions, there must be an attempt to destroy the very foundations upon which the power of the corruptionist and the boss is founded.
With the first two of the suggested causes this paper does not deal. The use of money in politics, and the effect of force and fraud upon elections, the writer is not called upon to consider; but I ask your attention to the other problem that confronts us in the elimination of the public officeholder as an asset of the political machine.
From almost the foundation of our government the influence of officeholders in politics has been recognized and deprecated. In 1802, during the administration of President Jefferson, a circular was issued by the heads of the Executive Departments in which it was said:
"The President of the United States has seen with dissatisfaction officers of the General Government taking, on various occasions, active part in elections of the public functionaries, whether of the General or of the State governments.
The right of any officer to give his vote at elections as a qualified citizen is not meant to be restrained, nor, however given, shall it have any effect to his prejudice; but it is expected that he will not attempt to influence the votes of others, nor take any part in the business of electioneering, that being deemed inconsistent with the spirit of the Constitution and his duties to it."
The tendency recognized in these orders had in thirty years grown to a national peril, when that watchword "to the victors belong the spoils” was first boldly proclaimed. In recent years this has been uttered with diminishing pride and confidence, and the men and women who have labored in this League believe that to
day a far more popular sentiment is the one that is hinted at in such expressions as “the competitive system,” the merit system,” and “the square deal.”
What are the inducements that lead men in the public service to give their time and energy to political activity? Political bosses have long used them. . Can we in any way destroy their willingness thus to be used or the possibility of their rendering such services?
In the first place we must all recognize that the most effective influence formerly in the hands of the political leader was the power to appoint his willing henchmen to office. The expectation of reward, the knowledge that appointment had come because of partisan service, and in many cases the sense of personal or party loyalty to those whom the appointee recognized as responsible for his selection, all these tended to make the officeholder a strenuous worker in the management of his party. It was not fear alone in the case of very many that kept them firmly in line. Loyalty and a sense of gratitude sometimes have been found even stronger motives for adherence to the machine. Further, many officeholders cherish the social ties they have formed in ward committee or ward political club, and do not willingly break them upon entering the public service. The friends of the Merit System have done well in directing their first and chief attention to the entrance to the public service, in order, first, to render it impossible for any political manager to guarantee an appointment to a worker, and, second, to make it perfectly apparent to every appointee that his selection was due wholly, or at least in very large part, to his own merits and qualifications for the position. It has been found that, with the gates up against the possibility of political and personal appointments, it is safe to allow rather a free power of dismissal. The possibility of appointing political friends has always formed the main inducement for turning out political opponents, and there is no question that the careful guarding of the appointments from partisan influence has gone very far to remove public offices from political influence and to free the employees from the domination of the party machine.