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  • Sestak Job Offer Violated Federal Law?

    Federal statutes seem to contradict a memorandum from the White House counsel released on Friday that claimed that no law was violated when Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was offered a government post in exchange for dropping out of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary against Sen. Arlen Specter.

    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blithely dismissed the issue for months. “Lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak, and nothing inappropriate happened,” he said. But the two-page memorandum admitted that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked former President Bill Clinton to offer Sestak a position on a presidential or senior executive branch advisory board. Apparently Gibbs and the White House expect us to accept their self-investigation and self-evaluation that nothing “inappropriate” happened.

    During his primary run, Sestak sought to elicit support by alleging that someone in the White House offered him a job last year if he dropped his challenge to Specter. However, he practically refused to talk about it and or say who made the offer. As an elected official, Sestak had an ethical obligation to reveal the details of what happened. His position that he had “said all I’m going to say on the matter” did not meet his fiduciary responsibilities. The public has a right to know exactly what happened, and whether a crime was committed.

    Some claim that even if Sestak was offered a high-ranking job in exchange for dropping out of the Senate race, it would not have constituted a crime—that’s just “business as usual” in Washington. But such claims confuse two very different situations: one which is, indeed, business as usual; the other, a potential crime.

    A 1980 opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Justice Department outlines the key distinction between what is legal and what is illegal under federal law. What is perfectly legal and what happens all the time in Washington is individuals being offered jobs for past political activity. A new President has several thousand patronage jobs to fill in the top ranks of the executive branch. Those jobs are filled based on a mix of professional competence and past political activity and support for the President or his party. That process does not violate federal law. Thus, if someone in the White House simply offered Sestak a job and did not tie the offer to anything related to the Senate race, then, that would arguably constitute business as usual.

    However, what is illegal and not normal practice in Washington is to promise a federal job or appointment to an individual in exchange for future political activity. 18 U.S.C. § 600 prohibits the use of government-funded jobs or programs to advance partisan political interests. The statute makes it unlawful for anyone to “promise any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit” to any person as a “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 primary election.” As the OLC opinion says, § 600 “punishes those who promise federal employment or benefits as an enticement to or reward for future political activity, but does not prohibit rewards for past political activity.” Future political activity would arguably include dropping out of a contested primary in order to benefit the White House-endorsed candidate (here, Sen. Specter).

    It does not matter that Sestak did not accept the offer or that the offer was, according to the White House memorandum, for an uncompensated federal appointment. The statute prohibits making such an offer in the first place. There is no requirement even for a tentative agreement. Like the crime of solicitation, the crime happens once the words trip off the mouth of the person making the offer.

    Another federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 595, prohibits any person employed in any administrative position by the United States “in connection with any activity which is financed…by the United States…us[ing] his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of…member of the Senate.” Any administration position offered to Sestak would be financed by the United States, so Rahm Emanuel offering such an appointment through Bill Clinton to interfere with the Senate race in Pennsylvania would also constitute a possible violation of this statute.

    These are not complex statutes. They are easy to understand and straightforward in their application. That’s probably why the White House has taken so long to answer these charges. But their answer, contrary to their claim, does not clear Rahm Emanuel.

    With the White House admission that an offer of a federal appointment was made in order to interfere with a Senate primary election, there is more than sufficient evidence to justify the Justice Department opening a preliminary investigation. In fact, such an admission would prompt any responsible prosecutor to open at least a preliminary investigation, otherwise he would not be fulfilling his duty and obligation to enforce all federal laws.

    The Justice Department has sent a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) rejecting his request for a special counsel to investigate the allegation. But Justice’s letter gave no indication that the department has opened its own investigation. Normally, such an investigation would be conducted by the Public Integrity Section in the Criminal Division. Any recommendation to open an investigation would have to be approved by the political head of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer. Given Breuer’s political obligations and loyalty to the Obama Administration and Rahm Emanuel, he would seem to have a conflict of interest in making this decision.

    Many will recall Rep. Pat Toomey’s challenge to then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 primary. Specter was endorsed by President George Bush. If Pat Toomey had claimed that someone in the Bush Administration had offered him a position if he withdrew his primary challenge, the mainstream media would have howled with outrage. The press would have relentlessly demanded release of all information about the offer, including the identity of the White House “fixer” and whether the President knew about or approved the offer. And had the Bush Justice Department refused to open an investigation or appoint a special counsel, the Fourth Estate would have feasted on the scandal.

    Justice’s refusal to appoint a special counsel or open its own investigation of the Sestak imbroglio, despite the clear evidence of a possible violation of federal law by a White House chief of staff and a former President, signals that the administration hopes to simply ignore this matter until it goes away. That could well happen if the press lets the matter slide.

    If that’s how the sleazy Sestak saga ends, it will be another instance of 1) the administration letting politics, rather than justice, drive its law enforcement decisions and 2) the media applying a toothless double-standard in its coverage of the Obama Justice Department.

    Co-authored by Cully Stimson.

    Cross-posted at Human Events.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    31 Responses to Sestak Job Offer Violated Federal Law?

    1. Steve851, Chicago says:

      Just another stupid law. We have so many. The Supreme Court appears poised to strike an equally stupid law, theft of honest services (18 U.S.C. § 1346), down, I hope. This Sestak thing is much ado about nothing at all. BTW, I'm a Tea Partier and would never consider voting for someone like Sestak

    2. Tami, Indiana says:

      I want this issue FULLY AND COMPLETELY INVESTIGATED. I'm fed up with "politics as usual". The WH has two other "issues" to explain as well. If this country is to survive, we must rid our government of corruption and "politics as usual".

    3. Billie says:

      …and hold them all accountable with reprimand.

      as the American government has gone behind the backs of the people, taking advantage of and to what conveniences them and changing what doesn't, violating while covered by misinterpreting to hide the truth.

      Forget congress with the same mindset. Power to the people to change the law to implement impeachment, wherever necessary. As it's the people government serves or defies, denies, neglects, corrupts, oppresses, targets, etc…

      for the decency of humanity, indecent government must be removed. .

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    5. Michael, Park Ridge, says:

      It's pretty important that we know the truth here; moreso than the outcome, actually. I'm not as concerned with the final verdict as I am with full disclosure. The court of public opinion could always use a little more evidence come November. Let's call this "Exhibit J."

      The predisposition of the MSM is to quickly try to move on. Sadly, there are seemingly problems no matter which way they turn these days. They must be getting a bit weary of carrying the water.

    6. HeckSpawn, East Heck says:

      Uh, Steve851, we already know how lily white politics are in Chicago, so your claim to be a Tea Partier doesn't float so much as sink.

      And the Title 18, U.S.C, § 595 is not new, it's been around a lot longer than Obama or a lot of his flunkies have. So it's not like he's breaking one of the many laws he's seen fit to impose on us since he's been in office, or the others he's broken that nobody seems to report on in the MSM.

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    9. MJF, CT says:

      The law is plain and clear. It an election has been tampered with, it needs to be addressed and if needed, all parties need to be brought to justice – even if it includes Mr. Obama.

    10. MJF, CT says:

      The law is plain and clear. It an election has been tampered with, it needs to be addressed and if needed, all parties need to be brought to justice —- even if it includes Mr. Obama.

    11. MJF, CT says:

      The law is plain and clear. It an election has been tampered with, it needs to be addressed and if needed, all parties need to be brought to justice —— even if it includes Mr. Obama.

    12. IBMike says:

      Clinton is practically a convicted felon. His past involvement in lying under oath sort of places him in the awkward position of again lying for this administration to protect Obama. Emanuel should be sacked, prosecuted, and jailed for his involvement; Clinton…well, he's an old, feeble, inept former President whose married to Hillary. That's punishment enough for him.

    13. Becky, OH says:

      So, who is going to do something about it? We keep hearing it over and over on TV but no one seems willing to investigate.

    14. Vic Delano Jacksonvi says:

      I've long been suspicious of the DOJ coming under the authority of the Executive.

      I believe that DOJ should be severed from the Executive with oversight.

      Any opinions? The constant conflict of interests involving DOJ and the Executive is well documented.

    15. Dave, Stillwater, MN says:

      Wouldn't it be fun to sit in on a discussion about News coverage on this issue. By the way, how do you sleep at night when you have instructed your reporters not to cover a particular story because we are pals with the political party in power! Can you imagine:

      A newspaper Editor was confronted by one of his reporters who complained about not seeing his stories in the paper! The Editor explained his policy! We

      take all our articles and throw them in the waste basket and at the end of the day, we pick several out for publication. Now, if you don't start handing in more positive articles about the Democrats, were are not even going to throw yours in the waste basket!!

    16. Drew Page, IL says:

      Of course it was against the law. But more than likely it will be given about as much attention as illegal immigration.

      I, for one, am sick of this B.S. If Congress doesn't believe in the laws that they legislate then they should strike them off the books. Either enforce the law or get rid of it.

    17. geo california says:

      how does this differ from blagojevich barttering for senate seat?, why is he not mentioned as a comparrison since his trial is about to start and his actions were no different… I think this is bussiness as usual in both cases and in 100's of others and its all wrong………

    18. Al Wunsch, Fl says:

      I suspect that most of the people believe that the law was broken in this instance. Sestak apparently thought he had an angle in his bid against Spector but now he has a problem. He is in a lose,lose situation (I hope). The way that politics work in Chicago, it is not beyond belief that the W/H tried to broder a deal to eliminate Sestak and open the way for Spector. However, I would guess that the DOJ will not investigate and also that we will never find out what really happened. We're dealing with thieves and thugs here.

    19. Al Wunsch, Fl says:

      I suspect that most people believe that the law was broken here. The stories don't add up. Sestak thought he had an angle in his bid against Spector but now, having won, has a problem. He is in a lose-lose situation. The way that politics are conducted in Chicago, it is not beyond belief that the W/H tried to broker a deal to get Sestak out of the primary race. However, I doubt that this DOJ will investigate and we will never find out what really happened. We are dealing with thieves and thugs here.

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    21. Jeanne Stotler, wood says:

      Putting Holder in cahrge of investigating this affair is like putting the Fox in charge of the hen house. The FBI and an independent counsel needs to put the Liar in Chief, BHO, R. Immanuel under oath as well as look into the connection to Colo. and find the truth out about BHO's senate seat. This whole thing stinks to high heaven and is true Chicago politics.

    22. RennyG Maryland says:

      Just think, if this could be tied to the community organizer, he would be impeached and removed!! Then we would have President Biden???? WOW!!!

      Please don't let this fall by the wayside, you know how these guys fight!!!!

    23. Peyton, a Libertaria says:

      Once again, OBUMMER is the Teflon Don. He has his CoS ask a former president to do his dirty work. Just like Capone and Daley in Chicago.

      OBUMMER has learned well from his mentors in scheister politics!

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    28. Drew Page, IL says:

      When the offer was first made, Sestak was outraged and couldn't get enough press denouncing the administration's attempt to get him out of the race in favor of Spector. But now that he won the primary, the administration wants to cover up the offer and the "job" became "an unpaid appointment to an advisory board". And who better to carry the verbal offer but the Perjuror In-Chief", Slick Willie. Can you say 'plausable deniability'? Sure you can.

      Of course the offer to Sestak was illegal, but no one is going to do anything about it. Legislators draft these laws, presidents sign them, but then they get aggrevated when people expect them to enforce these laws. Just like with illegal immigration. Either enforce the damn laws or get them off the books. We are sick of listening to politicians telling us that "this time the law doesn't apply, maybe next time it will". Is it any wonder why Congress is despised?

    29. Norma in Nebraska says:

      How BIG does a problem have to be to begin holding our officials accountable? Perhaps that is the true problem . . . it has been so long since anyone had to answer for their actions that no one is knows where to start. There are many more serious actions which have already been overlooked but that fact does not make it right!

      It is interesting to me that this attitude of not being accountable – "so what's the big deal?" – permeates our society today. Everyone is a winner, everyone is told they are wonderful and everyone is told they will succeed in whatever they are trying to do. No one learns by their mistakes because no one is allowed to fail. When someone in our society does the wrong thing, it is almost ALWAYS someone else's fault. Is it no wonder that our government operates under the same assumption? Our elected officials are so used to not obeying the law that they take their oath of office and immediately discard it as if it were a dirty sock.

      Perhaps we need to investigate every single questionable act, hold those involved accountable and prosecute those who deserve it. It is only by example that we will at least attempt to decrease the amount of theft, graft and immoral behavior in our country.

      And probably the most important thing we can do is acknowledge that the foundation for our country was in fact christianity and God. The founding fathers KNEW that without faith and divine inspiration they would surely fail. Has our society in general improved since we as a country have have become more progressive – less emphasis on family, discipline, morals, self-respect, honesty, integrity, and all of the other qualities that used to be taught at home, at school and in the church. We need to study the history of our country so we can learn from the mistakes made by our forefathers. Maybe it is time to go back to the way it used to be some 200+ years ago so that we can once again begin to practice the basic principles of being decent human beings.

      We have gradually been moving left since the Great Depression – we have been compromising our principles for years in order to be "tolerant", to embrace "political correctness," to embrace diversity without limits. Do you think our lack of upholding the Rule of Law has improved or destroyed the freedoms the Constitution guarantees each and every AMERICAN citizen? So why do we need laws at all if we don't care whether they are enforced or not? Is it appropriate to pick and choose when to uphold the law? Look at Arizona and then ask yourself whether you personally would be willing to be in danger every single night when you go to bed?

      Each of us must decide whether the "status quo" is working fine for us or whether we are nervous and worried about the direction our country is going. Do we want to be an extension of Europe or do we want to maintain our unique form of government and way of life? If we don't like the way things in general are going, then we need to be willing to stand up for what we believe in . . . . "treat others as you wish to be treated," the practice of using common sense, respect for The Constitution and The Bill of Rights, and upholding the Rule of Law.

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