Time will tell whether the emergence of the quasi government is to be viewed as a symptom of decline in our democratic government, or a harbinger of a new, creative management era where the purportedly artificial barriers between the governmental and private sectors are breached as a matter of principle. — Kevin R. Kosar, “The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics” (Congressional Research Service, February 13, 2007)
A year or so ago, I found myself taking a lot of notes on the New Public Management, Digital Era Governance, and related intellectual fads in public administration.
I wound up getting more and more interest in the QuaNGO model of public governance for which the British New Labour became known, with government services outsourced to “organized civil society.”
See, for example,
Nongovernmental organizations receiving such government contracts became known in the literature as “quasi-nongovernmental organizations” — or better, as some argued, “quasi-governmental organizations.”
An offshoot of this phenomenon is the problem of the so-called GONGO– the “government-organized nongovernmental organization.”
GONGOs can provide plausibly deniable fronts for actions that governments are barred from taking, or do not wish to be held accountable for.
Blackwater is becoming the epitome of the post-modern GONGO, you could argue, for example.
The use of Republican Party e-mail systems to conduct U.S. government business during the Bush ibn Bush years — in a bid to take those communications off the public record and into the zone of privacy — is another example.
In Brazil, where barriers between the public and private sectors have been breached as a matter of principle and custom for centuries — the phenomenon in this and similar cases is known as “endemic corruption” — GONGOs have flourished, and along with them, the communications strategies peculiar to them.
One such strategy is the “astroturf,” or fake grassroots, campaign, as I was explaining to a Brazilian friend recently. The “spontaneous” protests outside vote-counting facilities in Florida in 2000 — the “protesters” were Republican congressional aides flown in to “exercise their free speech rights” — is a classic case in point.
The saga of José Roberto Arruda, governor of the federal district for the DEM political party – the Democratas, formerly the PFL, a successor to the pro-dictatorship ARENA party that provided Brazil’s generalíssimos with a democratic facade smaller than the world-famous Brazilian bikini zone – is another case in point.
Arruda and a number of his top lieutenants were seen discussing bribes and stuffing wads of cash into their socks on videotapes secretly recorded by an Arruda aide turned state’s evidence. The tapes were leaked to the media and a maelstrom of jornalismo fiteiro ensued. See
Arruda, expelled from his party, is fighting — with remarkable success, so far — to stave off impeachment, even after the leader of the government benches in the district legislature, not expelled from the DEM, was removed from office by court order.
What is interesting is the “grassroots” movement that has arisen to defend the governor — who in early December used the district military police to brutalize nonviolent demonstrators against him.
It isalso interesting to note the hagiographical interview with Arruda in the “yellow pages” of Veja — the national newsweekly of the Editoria Abril — praising the governor as a paragon of the New Public Management, essentially.
If Arruda is a paragon of the NPM, then so were Tammany Hall and Jimmy Hoffa — and so is Mexican teachers’ union (SNTE) leader Elba Esther Gordillo — and thus the public management philosophy at work here is really not so new after all. QED.
Arthur Paganini of Brasília Limpa writes — thanks to Paola Lima for the link – and I translate hastily:
The organization behind the movement in support of Federal District governor José Robert Arruda is composed of associations and unions with ties to the government. Boasting an excellent infrastructure, the demonstrators who defend the governor accused of paying bribes to political allies have shown up every day in front of the District Legislative Assembly to mount an “action in defense of governability.” Along with a truck-mounted sound system, on site full-time, the group has chemical toilets and tents to protect them from the sun and rain. The organizers are former campaign organizers for Arruda who have held appointed posts in his government, as well as senior officials of organizations with ties to the governor.
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