August 16, 2017 / 1:50 PM / 2 years ago

Snubbed Federal Reserve nominee a warning as Trump struggles to fill key posts

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Allan Landon prepared for his job at the Federal Reserve for two-and-a-half years during the Obama administration before his nomination sank into the partisan quicksand of Washington D.C., a swamp which has only deepened under President Donald Trump, leaving more vacancies than ever at the top of the U.S. federal government.

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he departs Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Former U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Landon as a Fed governor in early 2015. With the community-banking experience sought by the Republicans who controlled Congress and a non-partisan background, he should have avoided any political pitfalls on the way to Senate confirmation.

Landon, a former Bank of Hawaii chief executive, began preparing for the job immediately after the White House’s initial phone call in mid-2014. He sold assets, stepped back from university lecturing and corporate boards, met Fed Chair Janet Yellen and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and even attended a Senate confirmation hearing to study for his own.

But his confirmation hearing never came.

Neither the Republican Senator who chaired the key committee, Richard Shelby, nor his staff met with Landon, he said in an interview.

While not bitter, he was left disillusioned by an increasingly political nomination system that can block promising candidates from public service, leaving top jobs unfilled at agencies and departments across Washington.

“Along the way you run into some things that are hard to understand if you are outside the system,” Landon, 69, told Reuters from his home in Park City, Utah. “It requires a level of trust and confidence, and when you wait two years you conclude that maybe that really never existed.”

Republican party control of both the White House and the congressional committees that approve nominees has not solved these problems during the Trump administration.

A dearth of nominations by Trump, hearings delayed by Democrats, and disinterest by prospective candidates has left most of the 577 key federal government positions requiring Senate confirmation unfilled.

According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, an organization whose mission is to inspire a new generation of civil servants, Trump had nominated 277 people to these top government positions by Wednesday, compared to 433 nominees at this point in Obama’s first presidential term, and 414 in that of President George W. Bush.

Obama and Bush each had more than twice as many nominees confirmed at this point than does Trump, who has 124.

Big staffing vacancies remain at the U.S. departments of State, Justice and Defense, and some high-profile names have backed down after having been nominated. Three vacancies remain at the Federal Reserve, which has not had a full slate of seven board governors for more than a decade.

“It’s a brutal, long road and it seems to be getting worse,” former Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said of the nomination process.

As part of his vetting in late 2014, in which he and his wife almost leased a home in the trendy Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington D.C., Landon said he “felt an obligation to help” when he realized the sitting Fed governors were doing the jobs of two or three people. “You wish there were a more certain path to the job,” he said.

(For a graphic of the Fed's doves and hawks, click here)

Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; editing by Clive McKeef

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