In a capital city defined by its cutthroat politics, no commodity is more precious than loyalty. That’s especially true in Clintonworld, where every favor and every slight is carefully tracked.
And it helps explain why scores of federal workers, including several members of Congress, would make maximum contributions of $2,700 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The donations won’t buy jobs in the West Wing, but they are a time-honored way for Washington’s most ambitious players to prove their loyalty to the person they think will be the next president of the United States. And the earlier they give, the better.
Take, for example, Tony Blinken and Evan Ryan, who are married to each other. He’s a deputy secretary of state; she’s an assistant secretary of state. They both donated to Clinton in late June, just before the most recent deadline for campaigns to file finance reports with the Federal Election Commission. Given the tradition of giving for political gain, it’s not surprising that one of the rare true power couples would part with a total of $5,400.
It’s really a small investment when you think about it. Blinken could be in line for any number of jobs in a Clinton administration, including the one he has, secretary of state, or national security adviser to the president. Ryan would certainly be under consideration for at least an undersecretary post at State or perhaps a high-ranking White House job.
What’s surprising about their contributions to Clinton is that Blinken and Ryan couldn’t be much closer to Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn’t said yet whether he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Blinken was a top aide to Biden on Capitol Hill and the vice president’s national security adviser. Ryan handled intergovernmental affairs for Biden at the White House. Both of them moved over to State after Clinton left. The facile read — and one we admit was our first thought — is that they just unintentionally signaled that Biden won’t run.
But Blinken and Ryan are too smart for that. After all, he plays the 195-dimensional chess of international politics for a living, and she’s one of the more capable unelected politicians in Washington. Blinken declined to comment for this story, but it doesn’t take much training in game theory to figure out his basic incentive structure and the optimal choice.