Sestak Job Offer Likely Benign, But Questions Remain for White House

Having apparently dispensed with the issue of whether or not a crime was committed, there is still the matter of the judgment of the people involved.

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By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

About that job that was offered to Rep. Joe Sestak as an inducement to not challenge Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary? Turns out it was all a misunderstanding, or something close to it. [See who supports Sestak.]

On Friday the White House counsel’s office revealed that, working through former President Bill Clinton, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel had reached out and made a vague offer of an appointment to some kind of unpaid position on a presidential advisory board in exchange for Sestak agreeing not to take on Specter, whom he eventually beat.

Not being an attorney or legal scholar, it seems that the offer--while it may still violate the letter of the law concerning such things--almost certainly does not violate its spirit. As some have maintained right from the start, the offer made to Sestak probably does not rise to the level of criminal activity so much as it represents the kind of political horse trading that is common in Washington, where spouses, lovers, and longtime associates of elected officials, both prominent and not-so-prominent, often turn up in government jobs or serving on the kinds of advisory boards Sestak was offered. 

It continues to be something of a puzzle, through, as to why it took 10 weeks to sort out the whole business. At any time since he first let word of the offer slip Sestak could have made a clean breast of the whole thing, as could anyone who was involved in the transaction. Instead they dodged the issue, with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs playing coy with the press every time a question was raised.

Having apparently dispensed with the issue of whether or not a crime was committed (and White House Counsel Robert Bauer’s explanation of events seems to suggest there wasn’t) there is still the matter of the judgment of the people involved.

Was Sestak deliberately trying to make himself look more important by letting it slip that he had been offered a job in exchange for getting out of the primary? Was he unable to acknowledge that he had made a mistake? And why did it take the White House so long to come clean about what actually had occurred, especially since they came into office promising to be the most transparent administration in U.S. history?

There are some, like California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who are unlikely to let go of the issue until all these questions are answered.

Shortly after the White House’s Bauer made his findings public Issa said in a statement that he is “concerned that in the rush to put together this report, the White House has done everything but explain its own actions and has instead worked to craft a story behind closed doors and coordinate with those involved.”

As the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa wants both Clinton and Sestak to “answer questions about what the White House has released today.”

He has a point.

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