America, Welcome to the Chicago Way, Courtesy of your President
So, in case you missed it, here’s the story. President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked Bill Clinton to ask Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak to drop out of the Dem primary against Arlen “I luv the Senate” Specter. No, this isn’t a fifth grade date being set up. It’s the Chicago Way of getting things done (other than “suicide”). In return for dropping out, Sestak would be given a “prominent, but unpaid” position in the White House. Sestak told slick Willy to go scratch, and now is the Dem candidate after beating Mr. “maybe I’ll join the Green Party” Specter.
Now, some, maybe even many, in the media and Washington are reacting to this purported bribery as if it’s no big deal. “Happens all the time.” That may be, but the bribee doesn’t usually go blabbing about the bribe to the press. Even more unusual is the briber admitting it. In defense of the alleged impropriety, White House counsel Robert Bauer wrote in a memo released by the White House today:
“There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior administrations – both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals – discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office,” he wrote. “Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.”
Several facts make Mr. Bauer’s claim that everything was on the up and up seem a bit dubious. First, Sestak wasn’t “considering” running; he was in full-fledged campaign mode. Second, if the President offering a position to Sestak was really no problem, why not just have Rahm do it? Why the junior high hi-jinks of using Clinton as a buffer? The reality is, offering Sestak the position in exchange for him dropping out isn’t as open and shut as Mr. Bauer claims.
Federal law makes it a crime for anyone “who directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or any other benefit” to someone else “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.” It is also illegal for a government official to use “his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate” for Senate.
Strike that. If Rahm had Clinton offer a position to Sestak in exchange for him dropping out of the race, it is open and shut; it was illegal. Some are focusing on the fact that the position was unpaid. Notwithstanding the fact that I find it difficult to believe Sestak would voluntarily take a truly unpaid position, as the statute above indicates, the receipt of any “benefit” is sufficient. This “prominent position” would presumably be considered of some benefit to Sestak.
The issue isn’t whether the offer of employment to Sestak was illegal; it clearly was. The issue is whether anything will be done about it. Being that the Obama Administration is in charge of the White House, and both Houses of Congress are dominated by Democrats, it seems unlikely. The New York Times reported today that neither the Department of Justice nor the Office of Special Counsel are even looking into it.
Again, is this typical of Washington? I don’t know. I do know, however, that it’s the sort of corruption our esteemed President promised to change. But then again, he is from Chicago.