Presidential Campaign Update


John Kamensky, Senior Fellow, IBM Center for The Business of GovernmentWhen we started this blog back in April 2007, we thought that government management issues would not be a campaign issue until probably after the Democrats and Republicans had chosen their candidates.  We thought that would possibly be after the February 5th  “Super Tuesday” primaries.  At this point, that’s not clear, but there do seem to be a pair of candidates from each party and all four have addresses leadership style and management issues in their campaigns to date.  Thanks to two observers – Tom Shoop’s FedBlog on Government Executive’s website and Don Kettl’s NextGovernment website via the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government – we can put together a quick snapshot.

 Democrats Senator Barak Obama.  Senator Obama, during the Nevada primary, noted:  I’m not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that’s not my job. My job is to set a vision of ‘here’s where the bureaucracy needs to go.’” During the campaign, he has offered a set of proposals to “restore trust and transparency:”

  • Close the “revolving door” by restricting lobbying by former officials
  • End the abuse of “no bid” contracts by requiring competition on all contracts over $25,000
  • Restore “objectivity” to the executive branch by, among other things, banning an ideological litmus test for hiring career employees in the executive branch.
  • Shine light on lobbying by, among other things, creating a searchable database of lobbying reports and campaign finances.
  • Give government “back to the people” by, among other things, requiring cabinet officials to hold town meetings and more public meetings for regulatory agencies.

 Senator Hillary Clinton.  Senator Clinton in response to Senator Obama’s Nevada comments were:  I do think that being president is the chief executive officer. I respect what Barack said about setting the vision, setting the tone, bringing people together. But I think you have to be able to manage and run the bureaucracy. You’ve got to pick good people, certainly, but you have to hold them accountable every single day.” During her campaign, she devoted a speech to government reform, with a 10-point plan Her proposals include:

  • Creating a Public Service Academy
  • Restoring competitive bidding to government contracting
  • Reducing the number of government contractors by 500,000
  • Publishing budgets for every agency within 48 hours of their submission to Congress
  • Implementing a “Results America” initiative that would track government effectiveness
  • Tracking and eliminating “corporate welfare.”

 Republicans Senator John McCain.  In the recent Florida primary, Senator McCain was quoted as saying: “I think everybody knows the difference between leadership and management. . . You can hire managers all the time, people who do the mechanics, people who implement policies, people who are good with assets. Leadership is people who inspire… Leadership is people who have had hands on experience with patriotism and service to the nation… Leadership is the ability to inspire and the ability to make Americans serve causes greater than their self-interest.” During his campaign, he has mentioned a number of specific proposals, according to Kettl’s Fels Institute website:

  • Stop earmarked spending
  • Stop the “revolving door” and restore ethics
  • Reorganize the federal bureaucracy and subject federal employees to the pressures of the private sector
  • Attract the finest public servants and  equip them with the newest technology
  • Change government to make it smaller, less expensive, better skilled, and more dedicated to the national interest.
  • Make federal employees more accountable.

  Governor Mitt Romney.  As the only candidate of the top four who has executive experience in both government and the private sector, Governor Romney says, “I think Americans are looking for people who can get the job done and can do it in a setting where there are two parties. Governors know how to do that.”

During his campaign, he seems to have said very little about specific management-related proposals, according to Kettl’s Fels Institute website.  He advocates stronger consequences for unethical behavior, advocates allowing the President to spend up to 25 percent less than the Congress appropriates, and wants to “cut out the unnecessary and wasteful.”

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2 Responses to “Presidential Campaign Update”

  1. Norman M. Macdonald Says:

    I note that one one candidate seems to be pressing for an open government. The idea of cabinet members holding town meetings is very interesting. What we need to start is give and take meetings To let folks know they are the government. We need a community builder who will take down walls,

  2. John Kamensky Says:

    Hi Norm — The Clinton/Gore “reinventing government” initiative piloted the use of town hall meetings by agency heads. That initiative, “Conversations with America,” resulted in hundreds of town halls around the country and agency heads found they learned a lot from direct interactions with their agencies’ customers. In recent months, several agency heads in the Bush Administration have started blogs and are getting comments. This is an electronic form of creating some back-and-forth, but it may not be as effective as actually getting out into communities.

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