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Obama’s Watergate?

With all the attention on President Obama’s bungling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the news of Congressional calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate of an alleged job offer by the Obama Administration to get Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) out of the Pennsylvania Senate race has been pushed down the news pages. This is a serious matter and something that will not be brushed aside. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), former Bush Administration official Karl Rove and Senate Judiciary Republicans have raised the issue that somebody in the Obama Administration may have committed a felony.

This Administration has held themselves out to be more ethical than administrations of the past. President Obama’s declared in his inaugural address on January 21, 2009 that:

What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This “new era of responsibility” should include an open discussion by the President about whether they did offer Congressman Sestak a job to get out of the primary race for the Democrat nomination to be the next Senator from the state of Pennsylvania.

The White House Web Site promises transparency and accountability right now:

President Obama has consistently made clear that he will strive to lead the most open, transparent, and accountable government in history. Whether it is reigning in the influence of lobbyists in Washington, bringing unprecedented accountability to federal spending, opening doors to engagement with the American public, or shutting down the “revolving door” that carries special interest influence in and out of the government, the highest standards will be sought in every thing the federal government does.

Those promises will be tested over the next few weeks with calls by some Republicans for the Obama Administration to come clean about an alleged job offer to Sestak. Karl Rove has alleged that one of two things are true: either Sestak is lying; or, a crime may have been committed by somebody in the Obama Administration.

Karl Rove via the L.A. Times as quoted on the Fox News Channel:

One of two things is true, you can’t have two things true. One or the other is true. Either Joe Sestak is lying and he was not offered a position in the administration in return for getting out of the primary. You know he’s a liar, in which case not worthy of public service. Or, he’s telling the truth, in which case somebody inside the White House committed a felony. 18 USC 211 says that, a government official cannot promise a job in return for anything of value and it has a long list of values.

Congressman Darrell Issa has compared this scandal to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Bridget Johnson of The Hill reports:

An e-mail from Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) campaign suggested Wednesday that the controversy over Rep. Joe Sestak’s (D-Pa.) alleged administration job offer could be President Barack Obama’s Watergate scandal. In an e-mail with the subject line “The Sestak Affair – Obama’s Watergate?”, the ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform committee focused on “long-standing questions” about the offer Sestak says was made to him to urge him to drop out of the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary.

Senate Republicans are concerned enought that they have sent a letter dated May 26, 2010 to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting “the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate” this matter. The letter is signed by all Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee including Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The letter alleges a possible violation of various criminal laws including but not limited to “18 U.S.C. Sec. 600 (promise of employment or other benefit for political activity).”

That law reads:

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.

There are questions as to whether other federal statutes may have been violated. The letter to Holder states in part:

The allegations in this matter are very serious and, if true, suggest a possible violation of various federal criminal laws intended to safeguard our political process from the taint of bribes and political machine manipulation. The first hint of improper conduct came to light in a February 2010 cable television interview when Congressman Sestak revealed that a White House official offered him a federal job in an effort to end his campaign in his state’s Senate primary.

Sestak stated in a televised interview that an official of the White House contacted him and offered him a federal job to pull out of the race. President Obamawas not shy in his support for Senator Arlen Specter’s (D-PA) re-election bid and this action is consistent with the President’s support for Specter over Sestak. The letter further states:

We do not believe the Department of Justice can properly defer to White House lawyers to investigate a matter that could involve “a serious breach of the law.” The White House cannot possibly manage an internal investigation of potential criminal misconduct while simultaneously crafting a public narrative to rebut the claim that misconduct occurred.

President Obama promised more information about this matter at his press conference today and we can only hope that the “most open, transparent, and accountable government in history” removes the taint of Chicago Machine style politics and appoints a special prosecutor to look into the matter.

For Tabitha Hale’s take on the controversy check out this Red State post.

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