Why the Sestak Job Offer Is a Big Deal

Sorry, Democrats. This is more than Fox News Channel-generated hysteria.

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By Scott Galupo, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

In Washington, you can safely assume the air is beginning to stink when administration apologists play the “Politics isn’t a crime” card, as the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen has here in reference to the brewing Joe Sestak job-offer scandal. [See who supports Sestak.]

Funny, I don’t remember Democrats being in such a forgiving mood when the Bush White House was accused of politicizing the Justice Department by firing a batch of U.S. Attorneys. Or when Rep. Tom DeLay launched his notorious K Street Project and helped to favorably redraw Texas’ congressional district boundaries. These efforts went beyond the pale of “exert[ing] influence in developments related to [the president’s] political party.” (Which indeed they did.) One of my favorite liberal bloggers, Jonathan Chait, also seems to have succumbed to a sort of our-side-of-the-cafeteria partiality:

There's no such thing as offering somebody a job in return for them dropping out of a Senate race. The acceptance of a job means dropping out of a Senate race. The concept of offering somebody a job "in exchange" for them declining to seek another job is like offering to marry a woman in exchange for her not marrying some other guy. It's conceptually nonsensical.

Come again? Splitting hairs Michael Kinsley-style, Chait has out-thunk himself here.

We’re talking (possibly) about a simple clear-cut case of quid pro quo: “Do this and I’ll do that.” Or if Chait prefers, “Don’t marry him; marry me.” What’s so “nonsensical” about that? In fact, I think I’ve seen the movie a couple of dozen times. Is Chait saying that a bribe is illegal only if it's accepted? [See the Top 10 Political Scandals of 2009]

Former Attorney General Mike Mukasey spun a couple of scenarios—one indictable, the other not so much—to Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel:

“The least bad case," Mukasey said, "is that the guy's 20 points down, and everybody says you don't want to do this and bloody up a candidate to no end. You want to do something, we can find something for you. But to call somebody in and tell them, 'Look, you bow out and we'll offer you a job' is very serious. No rational prosecutor should indict unless it's that blatant.’"

Sorry, Democrats. This is more than Fox News Channel-generated hysteria.

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  • Corrected on 5/27/10: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly spelled out-thunk.