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Political insiders are saying Tuesday's decision upholding the convictions of City Hall patronage operatives will embolden prosecutors and weaken the old clout-and-campaign-army system. But one longtime political worker disagrees: he says the patronage system has been dead for several years. And he's sorry to see it go.
"Sorich? No--it all changed awhile back when all this shit started [PDF]," he says. "All the [ward and political] organizations have lost people. You used to get hundreds of people to work on a campaign; now you can't get anybody. If you can't help anybody [with jobs], no one sticks with it, except a few people who are really loyal."
He'll work for a few candidates he really likes, including the official who employs him. But in most cases he'll only join a campaign if he's paid. That evens the playing field--as long as you have money to join the game.
"To me there was nothing wrong with the old system, as long as people were qualified and all that," he says. Patronage employees usually worked harder than others, he argues, because they didn't want to embarrass their political sponsors. Plus, they were people who'd demonstrated a work ethic by getting petition signatures or going door-to-door in the neighborhoods.
"But hiring that 19-year-old--come on! They all screwed up on that one." Patronage, he says, "has been going on for 150 years, and to end like this is just screwy. It's a shame."
As for Robert Sorich, the former patronage chief who appears headed back to jail: "I feel sorry for him. He's a good kid."