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EDITORIAL: Sestak-Romanoff scandal persists

The White House can’t sweep job offers under a rug

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2010

The liberal media may have lost interest in the Obama administration's sleazy job offers to two potential Senate candidates, but the White House shouldn't breathe too easily just yet. Republican congressmen and alternative media remain on the hunt for answers, and for justice.

The White House acknowledged dangling potential jobs to Democratic candidates Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and Andrew Romanoff in Colorado while trying to persuade each to drop primary challenges against the administration's favored incumbent senators. The White House said it used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary for the benefit of Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. For the sake of Colorado's Michael Bennet, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina sent an e-mail listing three specific jobs Mr. Romanoff might receive if he would abandon the race.

In both cases, White House counsel Robert F. Bauer said he conducted an internal investigation and blithely assured the world that no laws were broken. How reassuring. Never mind that the various stories of the people involved didn't always mesh or that a number of legal experts said the offers were illegal "on their face." And never mind that Mr. Bauer was precisely the wrong person to conduct such an investigation.

"At worst, [Mr. Bauer's interference] impeded any legitimate Justice Department investigation, harmed the cause of justice and reinforced public disgust with Washington," wrote William A. Burck and David B. Rivkin Jr., both former Justice Department officials who also served in Republican White House counsel's offices, in a June 4 column. "The White House counsel is the president's principal legal adviser, but the role is not independent of the president or the White House," they informed.

The Justice Department, therefore, not the White House, should lead such an investigation of the White House itself.

On Friday, Heritage Foundation legal scholars Hans A. von Spakovsky and Charles Stimson chimed in. They noted that Mr. Bauer's investigation involved deposing nobody under oath and that Mr. Bauer answers directly to one of the men suspected of being involved in the job discussions, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. This is as bad a conflict of interest as can be imagined. The two scholars thus suggest that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has "an ethical and professional duty" to make sure an independent inquiry is conducted.

Enter top Republican House Judiciary Committee members Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas and Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin. On Friday, they introduced a resolution of inquiry to force the Justice Department to turn over "any and all documents and correspondence relating" to these cases. The committee, by rule, must consider such a resolution within 14 legislative days.

"If the administration has nothing to hide, why not provide Congress with the requested documents and restore integrity to our election process?" Mr. Smith asked. "It's time for the White House to make good on its promise of transparency and come clean about what other elections administration officials may have sought to influence." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

The great misimpression is that the White House should be ashamed of engaging in tawdry "politics as usual." That's too nice to a White House that no longer deserves any benefit of the doubt. Using federal jobs as lures for political action is illegal in most cases, which makes it worse than the "usual" political games. A fuller investigation clearly is warranted.

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