EDITORIAL: Romanoff, Sestak and RICO

Job offers show a disturbing pattern of conduct

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his deputy, Jim Messina, both seem to have violated at least the spirit of the law in dangling potential jobs before would-be candidates, apparently to entice them out of contested Senate races. If allegations by disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich prove true, it would mean the White House engaged in similar behavior in President Obama’s political home state - raising the specter of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Mr. Messina discussed jobs and elections with former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year. “Jim Messina called and e-mailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the U.S. Senate,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs explained. “Months earlier, the president had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.”

This is as clear an admission of a quid pro quo as you’ll ever see in politics. It comes after the White House acknowledged that Mr. Emanuel specifically enlisted former President Bill Clinton to discuss an appointment for Rep. Joe Sestak if the Pennsylvania Democrat would avoid a primary battle with Sen. Arlen Specter. Mr. Blagojevich adds another claim in his corruption trial, which began Thursday, that an Obama supporter promised benefits if the then-governor would appoint Mr. Obama’s choice, Valerie Jarrett, to the president’s former Senate seat.

No matter how the White House parses it, “directly or indirectly” promising “any employment” to someone “in connection with any primary election … for any political office” violates 18 U.S. Code 600. The administration faces the danger that RICO statutes kick in whenever members of the same organization are found to have engaged in a “pattern” of crime in which covered acts, such as bribery, “have the same or similar purposes,” according to the Supreme Court.

Prosecutors may not want to use the RICO law to complicate these fairly straightforward cases. The apparent pattern of White House misbehavior, though, is highly disturbing. RICO or not, it merits a thorough and independent investigation.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts