Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Curious Case of Joe Sestak

You all know by now that Joe Sestak is the Democrat who ended Republican -turned-Democrat Arlen Specter's career by winning the Democrat Pennsylvania primary, in spite of Specter's White House support.

Just one thing...he's been very vocal on a number of occasions that he was offered a White House job to stay out of the primary and ensure the party-hopping Specter another chance at re-election. And the White House has been denying it..until now, when their response basically boils down to 'trust us' :

For three months, the White House has refused to say whether it offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak to get him to drop his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as Mr. Sestak has asserted.

But the White House wants everyone who suspects that something untoward, or even illegal, might have happened to rest easy: though it still will not reveal what happened, the White House is reassuring skeptics that it has examined its own actions and decided it did nothing wrong. Whatever it was that it did.

“Lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “And nothing inappropriate happened.”

“Improper or not, did you offer him a job in the administration?” asked the host, Bob Schieffer.

“I’m not going to get further into what the conversations were,” Mr. Gibbs replied. “People that have looked into them assure me that they weren’t inappropriate in any way.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “trust us” response from the White House has not exactly put the matter to rest. With Mr. Sestak’s victory over Mr. Specter in last week’s primary, the questions have returned with intensity, only to remain unanswered. Mr. Gibbs deflected questions 13 times at a White House briefing last week just two days after the primary. Mr. Sestak, a retired admiral, has reaffirmed his assertion without providing any details, like who exactly offered what job.

White House Adviser David Axelrod sang the same song Gibbs did:

There's a reason for all this tap dancing. Offering someone a federal job to affect the political process is a felony.

For starters, there's 18 USC 600 — which makes it a crime to offer employment, position, compensation or other benefits in exchange for ‘political activity’:

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.

There are also several other statutes that could apply, like 18 USC 211:

Whoever solicits or receives, either as a political contribution, or for personal emolument, any money or thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. Whoever solicits or receives any thing of value in consideration of aiding a person to obtain employment under the United States either by referring his name to an executive department or agency of the United States or by requiring the payment of a fee because such person has secured such employment shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. This section shall not apply to such services rendered by an employment agency pursuant to the written request of an executive department or agency of the United States.

Or 18 USC 595:

Whoever, being a person employed in any administrative position by the United States, or by any department or agency thereof, or by the District of Columbia or any agency or instrumentality thereof, or by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States, or any political subdivision, municipality, or agency thereof, or agency of such political subdivision or municipality (including any corporation owned or controlled by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States or by any such political subdivision, municipality, or agency), in connection with any activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States, or any department or agency thereof, uses his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

All three of the statutes were cited by GOP Congressman Darrel Issa in a letter he sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, asking for 'clarification'.

That's a letter I guarantee you Holder isn't going to answer.

Now, the normal process if we were dealing with an honest Justice Department would call for an investigation, which would include subpoenaing Sestak under oath to say exactly who offered him a job. Nor could Sestak duck out of it. Imagine you or I telling the police that, yes, we saw a murder or a robbery, but we couldn't reveal any details!

There are civil and criminal penalties for withholding evidence in a felony investigation as well as for lying under oath, otherwise known as perjury.

Needless to say, that won't happen in the Obama Administration, which will simply decline to investigate it further.

However, the House has the power to subpoena witnesses and mount it's own investigation and call for a special prosecutor. Again, the Democrats will never sign on to this, so the whole process might not happen until after the new Congress sits.

An interesting question at this point is that if Sestak isn't lying, the White House is protecting somebody.To the extent that Barack Obama signed off on this, it could be an impeachable offense after the midterms if the GOP takes over and runs an investigation.

As for Sestak himself, Pennsylvania voters have a right to know what happened and should demand the truth about this and a lot of other things. Joe Sestak has some other interesting baggage, which I'll get to later today.

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louielouie said...

not to be pedantic, but i thought sphincter was a dimocrat, then republican, then back to dimocrat.

also, a correction if i may, to ff essay:

if we were dealing with an honest Justice Department

it is justus department.
i'm sure it was just a clerical error and understandable. it's gotta be difficult throwing back shots of patron and publishing essays the was ff does.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hard to keep track of Arlen Specter's serpentine movements, no?

Liked the 'justus' pun, so here's one back...with Obama, justice justice not!