A government-watchdog organization that demanded the White House “come clean” on its alleged Hatch Act violations involving U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Mass., and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, another Democrat, has joined GOP members of Congress in calling for a special investigation.
Judicial Watch, a nonpartisan public-interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, confirmed today it has filed an official complaint with the Office of Special Counsel asking for investigations of the actions by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina.
The two allegedly interfered with Senate primaries in Pennsylvania and Colorado by offering federal jobs to Sestak and Romanoff to clear the field for White House favorites Sens. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Michael Bennet in Colorado.
The Judicial Watch letter to William F. Reukauf, associate special counsel in the Hatch Act Unit of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, said, “Both Mr. Messina and Mr. Emanuel violated the Hatch Act. Both used their official authority for the purpose of affecting the result of an election.”
The letter continued, “Mr. Messina used his position as White House deputy chief of staff to offer three positions to Mr. Romanoff in exchange for Mr. Romanoff not seeking election to the U.S. Senate. Such action was directed toward the success of Senator Bennet, who was a candidate for partisan political office. Similarly, Mr. Emanuel used his position as White House chief of staff to offer, through former President Clinton, executive-agency positions to Congressman Sestak in exchange for Congressman Sestak not seeking election to the U.S. Senate. Such action was directed toward the success of Senator Specter, who was a candidate for partisan political office.”
Evidence of violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits “the use of official authority or influence by federal employees for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” comes from the White House itself, Issa’s letters said.
“In the White House’s June 3, 2010, public statement, Mr. [Robert] Gibbs claimed that clearing the field for a candidate preferred by the White House was not problematic because ‘there was no offer of a job.’ There is evidence to the contrary,” wrote Issa.
“Additionally, a finding of a Hatch Act violation does not require that a job was formally offered; any use of official authority by a restricted federal official to interfere with or affect the outcome of an election is unlawful,” Issa said.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, Issa’s statement explained.
When the issue first came to light, Judicial Watch commented, “It’s time for everyone involved in this scandal to come clean. There is simply no wiggle room. Either Sestak lied about the federal job offer or someone at the White Hosue likely committed a felony. It’s that simple.”
Judicial Watch’s new complaint elaborates: “As widely reported in the media, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, on behalf of the Obama administration, have both used their position and influence as highly placed federal employees to affect the outcome of federal elections in direct violation of the Hatch Act, which states that an employee may not ‘use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.'”
The organization cited an admission from White House Counsel Robert Bauer that there were “efforts” made “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.”
“Top Obama White House officials attempted to manipulate federal elections in at least two states, which is a clear violation of the law,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “An investigation by the Office of Special Counsel is a first step.
“It is an absolute disgrace that Attorney General [Eric] Holder has not appointed a special counsel to investigate these scandals. And the fact that Congress is largely silent on this serious Obama scandal is one more reason why the public holds it in such low esteem,” he said.
Sestak said the White House job offer came last July as he was preparing to formally announce his Senate candidacy in August.
Sestak’s account “is prima facie evidence that an individual in the White House violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” Issa asserted in his letter demanding an investigation.
Further, the facts later were confirmed by the White House, Issa charged.
Bauer wrote that the congressman “publicly and accurately stated” that “options for executive branch service were raised with him. 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.”
“The Hatch Act prohibition on using official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting the result of an election extends to the White House chief of staff,” Issa wrote. “Only the president and vice-president are exempted. … The Hatch Act covers all officials of the executive agencies and departments, even agency and department heads appointed by the president with advice and consent of the Senate, as well as all officials, staff and aides in the offices of the president and vice-president.”
Basically, Issa charged, “Rahm Emanuel was leveraging the power and access of his official position to advance the political interests of the Democratic Party by affecting the result of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. This is precisely the sort of behavior forbidden by the Hatch Act.”
Both Sestak and Romanoff ultimately did not accept any offers from the White House. Sestak, running for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, defeated Specter in the primary. Romanoff pursued a primary challenge against White House favorite Sen. Michael Bennet.
WND reported Issa wrote to Bauer seeking “a full and complete list of all elections in which the White House engaged in efforts to persuade specific candidates to drop election bids.”
Issa wrote then, “If a job or any other thing of value meant to entice a candidate to withdraw from or not to enter the race was offered, please specify to whom it was offered, and by whom it was offered.”
He also asked Bauer publicly to commit to preserving all records concerning “job offers made to Rep. Sestak, Mr. Romanoff and any other candidates.”
The controversy was at least part of the reason Peter Ferrar, director of budget policy at the Institute for Policy Innovation and a policy adviser to the Heartland Institute, predicted Obama’s presidential future is clouded.
“Months ago, I predicted in this column that President Obama would so discredit himself in office that he wouldn’t even be on the ballot in 2012, let alone have a prayer of being re-elected. Like President Johnson in 1968, who had won a much bigger victory four years previously than Obama did in 2008, President Obama will be so politically defunct by 2012 that he won’t even try to run for re-election,” he wrote.
“I am now ready to predict that President Obama will not even make it that far. I predict that he will resign in discredited disgrace before the fall of 2012. Like my previous prediction, that is based not just on where we are now, but where we are going under his misleadership.”
Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, who retired as deputy commanding general for the Pacific, is calling on Obama to resign.
“We can wait no longer for a traditional change of power and new government,” he said.