Nominees Kneecapped

They’re piling up Gov. Chet Culver’s failed nominees like chord wood at the Statehouse today.

Before I even had my lunch, DHS director nominee Eugene Gessow and Iowa Power Fund board nominee Carrie La Seur of Mount Vernon had been shot down by Republicans who denied them needed votes.

Yesterday, Environmental Protection Commission nominee Shearon Elderkin of Cedar Rapids failed to get the 34 Senate votes needed for confirmation.

Democrats control the chamber 32-18, so you need a couple of Republican votes to make it. But La Seur also got a pair of no votes from Democrats.

I understand this is the one chance badly outnumbered Senate Republicans have to put their stamp on the session. Gessow probably deserved confirmation, but politics is rough stuff sometimes, and that goes double when you’re seeking a high-profile, good-paying gig to lead an agency that controls massive piles of taxpayer loot.

What I don’t like is the trend developing in recent years to politicize all sorts of nominations for slots on thankless state boards inhabited by Iowans willing to put in time effort to make government run. These aren’t big-time bureaucrats well compensated for enduring political head-butting and legislative ego eruptions.

Sure, they make important decisions. But making board and commission nominees into political pawns sends the wrong message.

For one thing, putting them through the ringer sends a pretty clear signal to busy, talented people. Accepting a seat on a state board may just buy you a whole load of aggravation and embarrassment if you somehow cross wires with a few disgruntled legislators. You might get to be rejected on the big board in the Senate, and in newspaper headlines.  Thanks for playing.

La Seur, for example, made the mistake of being against the controversial coal-fired power plant slated for construction near Marshalltown. Somehow, her opinion on that 19th Century energy source somehow disqualifies her from sitting on a board that’s supposed to be bankrolling energy innovations in the 21st Century.

Well, no more chicken lunches and car rides to Des Moines for you, tree-hugger. That’ll teach you to have an opinion.

And someday, Democrats will boot some guy or gal with a big carbon footprint off the board. The hilarity will never end.

But, it also means you just might  have a future in public service if your a no-opinion wallflower who has never said or done anything that might be construed as political or provocative. Perhaps a just-awakened coma patient would be perfect.

Actually, why wake them up? They’d be easier to confirm, just the way they are.

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