In what could be developing into a “Watergate” for the Democrat Party, accusations and countercharges have been flying over whether two politicians were, in fact, offered jobs in return for dropping out of political races that challenge two U.S. Senate supporters of President Obama.
In fact, Gary Kreep, of the United States Justice Foundation, who has been monitoring the Obama administration, told WND that the offer of reward for some government official’s actions does raise questions of legal liability.
“There’s a federal statute and federal law seems to make clear if you offer a government official some sort of remuneration, directly or indirectly, it’s a crime,” he said.
The controversies have erupted over statements by U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, also a Democrat.
According to the Larry Kane Report, last month Sestak was asked, “Is it true that you were offered a high ranking job in the administration in a bid to get you to drop out of the primary against Arlen Specter?”
Sestak said, “Yes.”
The report said Sestak confirmed it was a “high up” job, that it came from the White House, and that he refused the offer.
The second situation was reported in the Denver Post about Romanoff.
It said, “Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions.”
The report said Romanoff turned down the overture, but that, “It is the kind of hardball tactics that have come to mark the White House’s willingness to shape key races across the country, in this case trying to remove a threat to a vulnerable senator by presenting his opponent a choice of silver or lead.”
The newspaper affirmed that “several top Colorado Democrats” described the situation, even though White House spokesman Adam Abrams said, “Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration.”
Kreep said the developments also recall the case of Eric Massa, the Democrat congressman who recently resigned after alleging he was under pressure from Washington because of his expected “no” vote on a planned takeover of health care across the U.S.
The countercharges have focused around statements from Specter, who has said it’s a felony to know about a crime – such as offering a job in return for a political position – and not reporting it.
“So you’re getting into pretty deep areas here in these considerations,” he said recently.
And U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said the situation is that it appears either Sestak manufactured a story – or the Obama administration “has done something wrong and is covering it up.”
Officials at the White House, notably Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, have declined repeated requests to clarify the situation.
In the Philadelphia Bulletin, writer Jeffrey Lord put together a timeline on the case to date.
It was last September when the Denver Post reported an offer in the Obama administration for Romanoff – if Romanoff dropped his planned primary challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
Then in February, Kane reports a similar scenario involving Sestak.
The question then was raised Feb. 22 at the White House, without a response. A week later the question is raised again, with no answer. Yet another week, another request and this response, “I don’t have the update with me, but let me check and see if I do have anything.”
Then just last week ago, the question came up again, and not just once, and the resulting controversy prompted Specter to confirm that it also is a crime to know about improper deals – and not report them.
“Stunningly, this would presumable also include anyone on the Obama White House staff who knew one of their colleagues had offered such a job – which is to say committed a crime – and didn’t report it,” said the Bulletin commentary.
The report cited a Justice Department handbook that specifies that prosecutors can charge corrupt public officials who use “government-funded jobs or programs to advance a partisan political agenda.”
Issa has followed up with formal questions to Washington officials including, “What position(s) was (were) Mr. Sestak offered in exchange for his commitment to leave the Senate race?”
At the Ethics Alarms website, this analysis was posted, “Using federal jobs as political currency is illegal for a very good reason: it perverts the purpose of government. It is the duty of all those elected or appointed to power to make good faith efforts to fill positions according to who is best qualified to do what is in the best interests of the country. The White House doesn’t own those jobs; the public does.”