“I don’t have anything to add to what I said in March,” said a tight-lipped White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs last Friday. Reporters pressed Gibbs to comment on allegations that the Obama administration offered Joe Sestak (D-PA) a “high ranking” government job if Sestak would drop out of the Senate primary race against Arlen Specter (D-PA).
Gibbs, sounding like a broken record, repeated this or some similar phrase eight times during the White House briefing.
Sestak made the allegations in media interviews back in February. This alleged offer came at a time when Sestak’s chances for victory looked bleak and President Obama fully supported the newly Democratic Specter.
Much to the chagrin of the White House, Sestak won the primary race on May 18. White House correspondents Jake Tapper and Ed Henry repeatedly probed Gibbs for some new information but Gibbs repeated the line.
Sestak is not offering any new details either, even though he would seem to have a legal obligation to provide the information to the proper authorities.
On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Sestak told David Gregory he was offered a job. When Gregory asked if it was the Secretary of the Navy, Sestak refused to expound. On CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Sestak told Bob Schieffer he answered the question honestly in February, but did not elaborate any further.
But is this type of deal making part and parcel of Washington politics? Is it legal? While the answer to the former is speculative, the answer to the latter is a resounding “no.”
U.S. Code Title 18 Section 600 states:
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.
Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) has written a string of letters to White House Counsel Bob Bauer inquiring about the allegations. Issa is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa also implored Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate the allegations, a request that has already been turned down. But the issue is not going away. Today, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee made the same request.