In 2009, after he lost his 2008 campaign to become Insurance Commissioner, Democrat Jasper Schneider was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the Director of the USDA’s Rural Development Office in North Dakota. It’s a cushy job which pretty much consists of going around the state and handing out big checks paid for by other people’s money.
Schneider stepped down in April, and now it’s another unsuccessful Democrat candidate who gets to take over the sweet gig. Ryan Taylor – who got just 34 percent of the vote in a 2012 gubernatorial campaign, and just 42 percent of the vote in his 2014 agriculture commissioner race – was appointed to the position by Obama last week.
There are a couple of problems here.
First, could Democrats be any more brazen in using a non-political office for political purposes? It’s not just that they’re using it as a sort of golden parachute for their statewide candidates who can’t win elections. It’s also that they’re using the office to try and influence state politics.
Schneider launched what he called the North Dakota 2.0 initiative, traveling around the state and polling citizens about their policy preferences. It wasn’t terribly successful or impactful, and the methodology was sketchy at best, plus it was also well outside the scope of the position. Like, a country mile outside of what a Rural Development Director is supposed to be doing with his time.
Schneider also hired up a bunch of Democrat political operatives, including former Dorgan staffer and Democrat lawmaker Lee Kaldor, former Pomeroy staffer William Heigaard, and former Dorgan staffer Marion Houn.
Now Schneider’s gone and Taylor is in his place, no doubt intent on using the office for partisan political ends.
Second, why on earth is the President of the United States appointing this position? It seems the fact that the Rural Development Director is a political appointee invites politics into an office where it should be unwelcome (and yes, I’m aware that Republicans are guilty of this sort of thing too). This is not a policy-making position. This is an administrative position. The directors should be hired, not appointed.
Of course, then it would be hard to hand out these jobs as rewards to political allies. And to be clear, it was Senator Heidi Heitkamp who probably made this call. Usually, when a state’s congressional delegation includes members of the President’s party, they’re allowed to basically choose these appointees.