The Public Interest

Our tottering confirmation process

Paul C. Light

Spring 2002

THE presidential appointments process was designed to maintain a delicate balance between recruiting talented citizens to service and preventing corruption. “There is nothing I am so anxious about as good nominations,” Thomas Jefferson wrote at the start of his presidency in 1801, “conscious that the merit as well as reputation of an administration depends as much on that as on its measures.” On the other hand, the Founders understood that some citizens might be drawn to governmental service for personal gain. Benjamin Franklin was so worried about protecting what he called the “posts of honor” from self-interest that he urged the Constitutional Convention to prohibit the executive officers of government from receiving any “salary, stipend, Fee or reward whatsoever for their service.”

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