In a memo, the White House revealed on Friday that former President Bill Clinton was the mystery individual who asked Congressman Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania Democrat, to drop out of the Senatorial primary against Senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Democrat. However, it is being reported that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel directed Mr. Clinton to make the ask of Rep. Sestak. Mr. Sestak refused and went on to beat Mr. Specter in this month’s primary election, but Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would not give up on his inquiry into the matter.
In fact, Mr. Issa read the White House memo to reporters today and said, “The White House has cleared up the who and the what and they cleared up the why. The only other thing they haven’t cleared up is the why they think or don’t think it is unethical, well below the standard the president offered us of ethics, transparency, and why they don’t think it’s a violation of 18 USC Section 600.”
Was a crime committed, though? The White House is adamant that nothing unethical happened:
“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. Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.”
However, in a statement today, Rep. Issa points to three U.S. codes relevant to the Sestak matter that are deemed as misdemeanors:
18 U.S.C. § 600 – Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity
Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person 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, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both
18 U.S.C. § 211 – Acceptance or solicitation to obtain appointive public office
Whoever solicits or receives, either as a political contribution, or for personal emolument, any money or thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
Whoever solicits or receives any thing of value in consideration of aiding a person to obtain employment under the United States either by referring his name to an executive department or agency of the United States or by requiring the payment of a fee because such person has secured such employment shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. This section shall not apply to such services rendered by an employment agency pursuant to the written request of an executive department or agency of the United States.
18 U.S.C. § 595 – Interference by administrative employees of Federal, State, or Territorial Governments
Whoever, being a person employed in any administrative position by the United States, or by any department or agency thereof, or by the District of Columbia or any agency or instrumentality thereof, or by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States, or any political subdivision, municipality, or agency thereof, or agency of such political subdivision or municipality (including any corporation owned or controlled by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States or by any such political subdivision, municipality, or agency), in connection with any activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States, or any department or agency thereof, uses his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector,Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
This section shall not prohibit or make unlawful any act by any officer or employee of any educational or research institution, establishment, agency, or system which is supported in whole or in part by any state or political subdivision thereof, or by the District of Columbia or by any Territory or Possession of the United States; or by any recognized religious, philanthropic or cultural organization.
“The White House has admitted to a misdemeanor. They’ve admitted to implicating and co-opting Clinton in this misdemeanor,” said Mr. Issa. “I guess the question is if Rahm Emanuel, on behalf of the president committed a misdemeanor through this inducement has now been recognized. Is Rahm Emanuel now going to stay, even though he has in fact violated the law? Will this White House live up to the standard that it set for itself?”
Mr. Sestak sent out the following statement today regarding the issue:
“Last summer, I received phone call from President Clinton. During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background.
He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.
“There are many important challenges facing Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. I intend to remain focused on those issues and continue my fight on behalf of working families.”
Mr.Issa, though, appears to not buy it and brought up inconsistencies in Mr. Sestak’s story on Fox News today:
“We learned they had contacted Joe Sestak’s brother, his campaign manager, and they obviously coordinated the statement. What we find interesting, because Admiral Sestak has been a pretty straight shooter throughout this entire process is that Joe now has to tell us who is this person in the White House was your earlier statement and a straight offer rather than general talk. That’s going to be a general problem for Joe Sestak to explain his repeating the same explicit statement seems to be a little different now but still outside of what would be considered ethical behavior or legal behavior in this case.”