Imagine this: A 26-year-old guy with a pierced tongue, a goatee and a work history of running a music store and a small record label applies for a job as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
He'd have about as much chance as a snowball on the steps of the Capitol in August.
Unless, that is, his last name were, say, Hastert, as in Joshua Hastert, son of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, J. Dennis Hastert.
Yes, the son of the speaker, with no previous lobbying experience, has landed a job in Washington, according to a report in The New York Times. And Hastert is not alone.
The Times also reported that Chester T. Lott Jr., the son of the Senate minority leader, Trent Lott, is a lobbyist, as well as Linda Daschle, the wife of the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle.
Legally, there is nothing that can be done to keep Hastert, Lott and Daschle from trading on their well connected names. They have not surrendered their constitutional rights to free assembly, freedom of speech or to petition their government.
And ethics rules would prohibit their office-holding relatives from giving them political favors.
Pure as Caesar's wife
But that doesn't mean they're not trading on their names, despite whatever protestations they might make to the contrary.
The younger Hastert told The Times that he tells his clients: "If you think I am going to the House leadership, and especially my father's office to get this pushed, it isn't going to happen." That's some disclaimer. Only an idiot would expect Hastert to be that ham-fisted.
And only an idiot would think that other representatives, especially Republicans who depend on Speaker Hastert for committee assignments, would ignore an entreaty from Master Hastert.
While it is not illegal for the relatives of powerful politicians in Washington to trade on their names, it's still wrong. It was wrong when Billy Carter did it. Wrong when Roger Clinton did it. And wrong when Hastert, Lott, Daschle and a bevy of lesser lights are doing it.
Almost universally, these folks claim that it would be unfair to deprive them of an opportunity to earn a living just because of their names. That is laughably disingenuous. They would not have these jobs under any other name.
If they truly have the brains and talent to be good lobbyists, there are plenty of other jobs they could do.