Thursday, June 03, 2010
Shades of Blago! The White House is now "kinda sorta" offering jobs to achieve explicit results, such as its vague offer of a job (three, actually) to induce Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff to drop out of that state's senatorial primary. Egads. Even some lefty blogs are troubled.
Allahpundit parses the relevant statute. It does seem to me that in the now almost 40 years since Watergate the Justice Department has appointed special prosecutors with less justification than in this case. My own view is that special prosecutors are dangerous, bad for the health of our political life, and almost always unwarranted, so I would oppose the appointment of one in this case, but it would be well within precedent to do so. No worries in the White House, though, because Eric Holder would not make a move without massive pressure from the non-Fox media, which pressure will not be forthcoming as long as "Captain Hopenchange" is in the White House.
Why have laws if they aren't upheld?
Crimes and Criminal Procedure - 18 USC Section 600
Sec. 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.
Is it at all conceivable that a Clintonian parsing of the section cited by Jane and Allapundit does not apply to a White House official trying to clear the field in a primary, as in the Sestak and Romanoff cases? That is, the law is intended to prevent someone (a public official) from offering a job so that the recipient of the largesse will support or oppose a particular candidate, but it does not specifically consider offering a job so that a potential candidate won't run. Could a lawyer argue that someone deciding to take a different job and not to run for office doesn't support or oppose any candidate, in a narrow sense -- that the act of not running is neutral? Just playing devil's advocate here. Remember, I used the phrase Clintonian parsing, as in, "I read the language of the statute, and she was touching me, I wasn't touching her, so it didn't apply, in my view."
I think that it is likely that every modern White House has engaged in these kinds of political games with potential candidates. That doesn't make it legal, of course, but when the next Republican administration is in, this will be one less tool it can use.
What makes this damaging to the Obama administration is that he campaigned explicitly on changing politics as usual and the idea of "Change" generally, so it makes the president appear to be just another ordinary politician. That, and the explanation in the Sestak case just doesn't seem credible. Even Joe Klein does not believe it. This hurts Sestak's campaign.
Chicago Pols have perfected the concept of "preparing the battlespace." This is business as usual for them. Remove opposition before your candidate has to fight the battle. Look at Obama's senatorial career.
What they did not foresee, perhaps, is the revulsion this tactic causes in the general voting population. It will be important for the blogs and new media to keep the topic alive until even the MSM sees it as a Watergate level transgression.
Having worked with these statutes (probably one of 20 people on earth who has), one has to know the legislative history of the statute before one can jump to any conclusions, and then think about it some more.
They are all written in a way that would sweep in protected and unprotected political activity under the constitution. I suspect this was supposed to apply to handing out civil service jobs in exchange for political hack-dom or the like, and not to ordinary high-level political dealings in which someone says - would you rather have this job, than that, if this job were a certainty, and that job were uncertain at best?
Having said that, it's pretty hilarious that their own candidates are "outing" them. I suspect strongly this is standard fare in every administration, but the primary candidates are, to my surprise, outing their own White House.