Did the Democrats’ desire to hold onto power really make it legal to offer Joe Sestak an inducement to drop out of the US Senate race? What about Obama’s promise to end business as usual?
For ten weeks Congressman Joe Sestak has consistently claimed he was offered a job by the Obama Administration if he would drop out of a primary election for US Senate in his home state of Pennsylvania. Obama was indebted to the other candidate, incumbent Senator Arlin Spector, who had gifted Senate Democrats a 60 vote, filibuster-proof, super-majority when he switched parties and became a Democrat a year ago. Based on the relevant federal law, which appears at the bottom of this article, such a job offer would be illegal.
Since Sestak defeated Specter in the May 18 primary there have been growing demands for details about the job offer. Just before the long Memorial Day weekend the White House Counsel (the President’s lawyer) published a memo purporting to put the controversy to rest.
The memo begins by asserting that allegations of misconduct are based on factual errors, and then reveals that White House aid Rahm Emanuel authorized Bill Clinton to make offers on behalf of the Administration and then describes what was offered:
Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified. The advisory positions, while important to the work of the Administration, would have been uncompensated…
Apparently the Administration hopes the public will focus on the word “uncompensated,” and decide this is all a lot of noise over nothing. But for people building a career in politics and government, prestige and influence are often far more valuable than a salary.
This was an offer of enormous prestige and influence to Sestak who would continue on salary as a member of Congress. The White House would not have engaged a former President to deliver an inducement that was worthless.
The memo then makes an incredible assertion:
It has been suggested that discussions of alternatives to the Senate campaign were improperly raised with [Sestak.] There was no such impropriety. The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the Congressman vacating his seat in the House.
This is just astounding! Are we really being told that a political party’s self-serving interest and desire to hold onto a house seat and present the appearance of unity with an uncontested primary is legal justification for what amounts to offering a government position as a bribe to a candidate if he would drop out of an election? Isn’t it obvious that the reason such an offer should be illegal is that it would put the interests of a political party above the interests of The People?
UPDATE: Press Secretary Gibbs, answering a reporter’s question repeated this justification. He said that contested primaries are a “bloodbath,” that Obama is leader of the Democratic party and is therefore entitled to offer government funded favors to Sestak in exchange for dropping out of the primary!
The memo concludes with the assertion that both Democrat and Republican administrations of the past have…
…discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office.
So the President who campaigned on the promise of ending business as usual in Washington now cites business as usual in Washington to justify an attempt to fix an election.
Below is the relevant law, 18 USC Section 600 copied and pasted in its entirety. We leave it to the reader to decide if this law was violated.
Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.