While the political adage holds that to the winner go the spoils, under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, even some losers have done very well.
Take Dan Seals. He failed three times to win a North Shore congressional seat, and his tax returns showed he mostly spent his time campaigning instead of working.
Following November's defeat, Quinn hired him as a $121,029-a-year assistant director in the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Seals joined a host of other Democratic castaways who've landed on the state payroll after losing bids for Congress and the General Assembly. Friends and family of Democrats with clout also have found themselves with paid appointments to state panels.
Hiring the connected is not new. But for Quinn, embracing legal political patronage contrasts with his long-running message of populist reform that attacks the way insiders do the people's business.
And with Quinn complaining that lawmakers haven't given him enough money and Illinois still billions of dollars behind in paying its bills, questions linger over whether the governor even needs to fill some highly paid administrative positions — let alone with political allies.
"It really (raises) the question of, Is there something in the nature of elected office that makes you so sequestered from the rest of the public that you don't see appointments beyond your nose?" said Cindi Canary, the former executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
"I mean, none of this is to say that at least some of these appointees don't bring talents to the table," Canary said. "But when the governor is giving appointments to highly positioned political colleagues, Democrats, winners or losers, it really does sort of beg for a greater level of disclosure and what it is about these particular people that made them qualified for this position."
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said that the governor "rejects patronage" and that his goal "is to recruit the very best people for the job."
"The governor's approach to appointments is to seek out people who exemplify his philosophy of integrity, competence and public service," Anderson said. "On an ongoing basis, he recruits dedicated public servants who are honest and produce results, and who comply with the requirements and extensive criteria that are in place for appointments."
Shortly after taking office from his disgraced predecessor in January 2009, Quinn pledged to "fumigate" Rod Blagojevich appointees in an effort to restore integrity in state government.
That never happened. Then in April, Quinn vetoed legislation aimed at cleaning house among hundreds of people picked by Blagojevich and imprisoned Republican ex-Gov. George Ryan.
Quinn argues he has made the appointment process more transparent by posting vacancies for boards and commissions online and allowing regular citizens to apply.
More recently, Quinn has been criticized for hiring former Democratic lawmakers who voted as lame ducks for a massive income tax increase in January.
Quinn named former Rep. Careen Gordon, a Democrat formerly of Morris, to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board only days after she voted for a 67 percent increase in the personal income tax rate.
Gordon, defeated in her November re-election bid, had campaigned against raising the state income tax. When her Senate confirmation ran into opposition, Quinn moved Gordon into a job as lawyer for the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation at $84,000 a year.
Last month, Quinn named former Rep. Mike Smith, a Democrat from Canton, to the state's Educational Labor Relations Board at a salary of $93,926, a raise from his legislative pay. Unlike Gordon, Smith, who chaired the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, had supported the income tax increase prior to his re-election defeat.
Sen. Tim Bivins of Dixon, the ranking Republican on the Democrat-led Senate Executive Appointments Committee, said that while Smith is "a nice guy, the statute is very clear that you have to have five years' collective bargaining experience, which he doesn't have."
"I think if you look around, there's plenty of qualified people who would love to have these positions," Bivins said. "Political appointees, if they're qualified and do a good job, he's got a right to appoint who he wants. He's made some good choices and a whole lot of bad ones."