DES MOINES — At least 386 state employees have been hired by Gov. Terry Branstad's administration without advertising the positions, but this is not a new practice in Iowa.
Critics told the Des Moines Register the practice makes it easier for friends and campaign donors to land the jobs.
"Do you have to pay to play in state government?" said Democratic Sen. Janet Petersen, of Des Moines, who leads the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee. "What is going on here?"
This practice is allowed under state law for certain at-will jobs that come with fewer job protections than most government jobs. The positions are classified as non-merit positions based on several factors, including whether an employee supervises anyone.
Branstad spokesman Jimmy Centers said another 2,300 people were hired for jobs that were advertised since Branstad took office in 2011.
Branstad's predecessor, Gov. Chet Culver, hired 604 employees into unadvertised jobs during one four-year term.
One example of the practice is Department of Administrative Services spokesman Caleb Hunter. He's a former Senate Republican staff member who now makes $98,207 a year.
Another former House Republican staffer is now making $126,000 helping run the Department of Administrative Services.
Drake University professor Lance Noe said allowing government to hire some jobs without advertising might help it accomplish goals more quickly.
He said private companies do generally conduct a job search when hiring, but networking also plays a major role.
"People tend to hire people they know," Noe said. "That's good perhaps at creating a corporate culture, but the downside is unrealized opportunities that can be missed from people outside of that network."
State Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said he will push legislation this year to require almost all state jobs to be advertised.
"It galls me to have to do this because common sense should say that if you want to find the best applicants, you advertise and you make the process as open and transparent as possible," McCoy said.