I don't consider anything to be underhanded about "networking". It is a valuable business skill. True networking isn't about offering and soliciting "hookups" in an effort to circumvent merit. True networking is about developing a broad base of contacts with the ability and expertise to assist you in your business or career. By developing and maintaining those relationships you add a personal element which contributes to success. It is not underhanded because anyone can do it. Here is a true story about my mentor and the wealthiest man I know.
He needed $500,000 for a business venture. He had no money and the banks would not back a young nobody with nothing but an idea. He decided he needed wealthy private investors. There was a local golf club whose members represented the most prominent members of the community. He certainly did not have enough money to join the club proper, but he discovered for a reasonable fee, the club did offer access to its' tennis courts. He spent all his spare time that year learning to play tennis and then playing on the club team where he became a familiar face. He is a charismatic man with an impressive mind and he found his financial backers. The rest is history, and he still plays tennis to this day where he is of course, a full member. One of his quotes;
"I have spent a lifetime putting strings in place. I'm sure as hell going to pull one from time to time."
You are talking about a slightly different situation though - he is an entrepreneur who needed capital for his idea to make it successful.
Slightly different to networking for the purpose of achieving a particular job v. someone who is on the dole trying to get the same job, but doesn't know anyone and can't get their foot in the door as easily.
Surely, getting a job through someone you know would likely cause trouble, if, for example, you weren't the right person for that job, or you were found to be unreliable, or where caught stealing from the employer.