Party and Patronage: Organizational Glue, Payment for Services, or Graft?
The final piece of evidence of the Court's disregard for parties as institutional forms of representation is found in a line of decisions limiting political patronage. 1 Patronage has long been the scourge of American party politics. Associated with the powerful urban party machines of this century, it has been thought to be a primary tool of corruption and improper influence in politics. Consequently, it typically faces general condemnation and is opposed by everyone from the Progressives to the media to "good government" types of various stripes and colors.
Legal controversies involving the propriety of patronage present a unique challenge to the Court and its willingness to acknowledge parties in American democracy. In light of the grave disapprobation of patronage in most circles, the path of least resistance would be to simply dismiss it as an obsolete remnant of another era without contemporary value. But patronage cases "call forth strong theoretical discussion about the role of political parties in the American democracy." 2 Efforts to justify patronage are uniquely cast in responsible party terms. They are closely coupled with the institutional and organizational aspects of parties. Patronage practices can be condoned only by accepting parties as essential tools of democracy. Consequently, these disputes severely test the Court's ability to take judicial notice of party structures and activity.