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Californians imposes some of the highest taxes in the nation but its economic recovery remains sluggish. Politicians back boondoggles like the Grand Bunk Railroad and are fond of wasting taxpayers’ money on sinecures for their friends. Consider a recent case the Sacramento Bee called an “ethical crime.”
Senate boss Darrell Steinberg has appointed John Adkisson, his “dearest friend” and law school buddy, to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, which oversees unemployment and disability disputes. The job pays $128,000 a year and the hours aren’t bad either. The post is described as “full time” but the board meets only once a month. With an eight-hour monthly meeting that works out to $1,333 an hour for Mr. Adkisson, who even enjoys the services of a spokesman to field reporters’ questions. The spokesman said senator Steinberg’s friend is very qualified and that could be true.
When Darrell Steinberg ran for Sacramento City Council in 1992 he considered John Adkisson qualified to run his campaign. In state government Steinberg urged the creation of the Senate Oversight and Outcomes Committee. Mr. Adkisson has been billing the state $150,000 yearly as director of that committee. He has also been dinging taxpayers $150,000 a year as special counsel to the Senate and Legislative Counsel. So the new post is not based on economic need. As the Bee said, handing out “flagrantly cushy jobs” to friends is “an ethical crime, if nothing else.” Further, “there are state priorities other than these sorts of sinecures.”
This is not the first ethical lapse for Steinberg, who is termed out this year. As we noted, in 2012 the Senate Governance and Finance Committee held hearings on several ballot measures that involved taxes and spending. Steinberg ordered the California Channel to kill the live broadcast of the hearing, depriving voters statewide of a chance to gain insights from the testimony. In a lame apology Steinberg said “I pride myself on being open and transparent.”
But he suffered no penalty for abusing the public’s right to know and has now maintained the state’s sinecure tradition in fine ruling class style. Steinberg is a Democrat but this is not a partisan issue. Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would “blow up the boxes” of state bureaucracy and eliminate cushy board positions. He did neither. Government manages to reverse Herbert Stein’s Law. What can go on will.