The Seattle Times reports that Suzi LeVine, the departing head of Washington’s Employment Security Department (ESD), is Joe Biden’s pick to lead the federal office that helps states manage unemployment benefits. In this post — interim assistant secretary of the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) at the Labor Department — LeVine would be at the forefront of the Biden administration’s economic response to the pandemic.
The ETA has more than 900 employees and had a budget of around $9 billion in 2020. That’s nearly three-quarters of the Labor Department’s overall appropriation.
The problem is that LeVine appears to be incompetent, at least when it comes to this kind of work. According to the Seattle Times:
LeVine’s move from Olympia to Washington, D.C., also comes amid continued criticism of the ESD’s response to pandemic-related job losses and fraud, renewed scrutiny of its slow response to public records requests by media outlets. . . .
News that LeVine was leaving the ESD ignited a storm of criticism last week over problems at the ESD during her 2-1/2 year tenure. Notable among those was a fraud scheme last spring that siphoned off $600 million in unemployment funds, as well as chronic delays in benefit payments to legitimate claimants during the pandemic.
Why would Biden select someone this incompetent for such an important job? Because LeVine and her husband donate generously to Democrats. The LeVines gave more than $400,000 to the Biden campaign and other Democratic causes in 2019 and 2020, according to federal campaign records. In 2017, they were appointed as deputy national finance chairs for the Democratic National Committee.
It’s not surprising to see the Biden administration rewarding contributors who helped enrich the Democratic Party by giving them jobs without regard to their competence. But given the importance of combatting the economic effects of the pandemic, it would be nice if Biden would reward them the old-fashioned way — with ambassadorships to second and third tier countries, the way the Obama administration rewarded Suzi LeVine — not by putting them in charge of key federal bureaucracies.