18 U.S.C. § 600 : US Code - Section 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.
THE JOE SESTAK “QUESTION” – ANATOMY OF AN INTERVIEW THAT SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE
May 28th 2010 — Posted to News Flash LarryKane.com
So how did it happen? How did a straightforward question and blunt answer bring anxiety to the White House? I’ll tell you the story.For over three months now, friends and others have asked me to recount the events of February 18th of this year, when a single question from me to Congressman Joe Sestak unleashed a controversy that remains to this day. Is it a political issue? Is it illegal? I can’t answer those questions, but I can tell you how casually it all happened, and what basis I had for asking the question,
“Were you ever offered a job to get out of this race? (The contest against Arlen Specter).
Sestak didn’t flinch .
“Yes,” he answered.
“Was it Navy Secretary?”, I asked
He proceeded to talk about staying in the race but added that “he was called many times” to pull out.
Later, I asked, “So you were offered a job by someone in the White House?”
He said, “Yes.”
When the taping stopped, Joe Sestak looked surprised .
“You are the first person who ever asked me that question.”
And that was true. But why was I the first. There was buzz about this story since last summer. A few days before the February 18th taping of Voice Of Reason for The Comcast Network, I was advised by two reliable sources that someone in or close to the White House had dangled a high level job offer to Sestak, to give a clear path to Senator Specter for the nomination. I thought it would be a good thing to pose the question to Sestak in the upcoming interview.
The Sestak interview was the second in this contest. I interviewed Specter a week before.
I prepared for the program with an outline of questions. But on that Thursday I was having a very hectic day. I was a little overwhelmed with work. I forgot to put the question in my outline. Suddenly, with 90 seconds left, I remembered!
The news business can have moments that are so unpredictable. I knew the questionwas a good one, based on some really good sources, but I was flabbergasted when Sestak said “Yes.” There was no hesitation. No delay. He just said, “Yes.”
As the Congressman left the building, there was an obvious dilemma. The show wouldn’t air till Sunday the 21st. The story could be big. I called Comcast executives. With their blessing, I broke the story with an audio interview on KYW Newsradio. But first there was work to do. I needed a White House response.
I called the White House Press Office. I played the interview for the individual who answered the phone. She said someone would call me back. A few minutes later, another individual called. She said the White House would call back with a reaction “shortly.” That was 3:45 in the afternoon.
The report aired all night without a White House response.
At 6:45 the next morning, 15 hours later, a Deputy Press Secretary called. She said, “You can say the White House says it’s not true.”
A similar call was placed to the Inquirer’s Tom Fitzgerald. Tom was in the studio during the show taping. He was following Sestak around, working on a feature story. He took the story to page one of the Friday Inquirer.
A few days ago, both of us were still wondering why it took the White House 15 hours to issue a simple denial.
The rest is history, peculiar history. The “job offer” story never became an issue in the campaign although some would suggest the story played well to Sestak’s argument that he was a real Democratic independent.
But on May 19th, a day after his upset victory over Specter, the February interview became an internet hit. Republcans, arguing that it may have been a crime to offer a job in return for a withdrawal from a political contest. Democrats, only recently, called for the truth on this story. The President, saying nothing was improper, promised a White House statement “shortly.”
The entire episode, now broadcast and printed around the nation, is also a popular item on the web.
There are several things I want you to know. I’m surprised that Washington reporters never asked the question in the first place, I’m surprised that Sestak answered so quickly when I posed the question.
But most of all, I’m stunned that a rather simple question, turned into a political firestorm. You never really know where the pursuit of news will take you.
The story may not be over. Republicans will want more than just a White House counsel’s report.
But the beginning to this saga may be more interesting than the end.
One thing I do know is that, as the question was being asked, Joe Sestak never hesitated. In a split second, he just said, “yes.”
Sestak Message Ran Through Clinton
By EVAN PEREZ WSJ
WASHINGTON—The White House said Friday that it tapped former President Bill Clinton last year to try to nudge Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak out of Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate primary contest.
Mr. Sestak has said since February that he was offered a high-level job in exchange for dropping his challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter, which Mr. Sestak ended up winning. Republican critics have alleged that the approach may have broken federal law.
Amid the GOP accusations of a scandal, The Obama administration on Friday released a memo giving its most extensive description of events, which the White House counsel's office investigated beginning in February. The memo said "no impropriety occurred."
The memo said Mr. Clinton, acting at the request of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, raised with Mr. Sestak the possibility of an "uncompensated advisory board" position. That would have given Mr. Sestak a new opportunity for public service, allowed him to keep his House seat and "avoid a divisive Senate primary," the memo said.
Mr. Clinton made the approach during a phone call in June or July 2009, according to an official familiar with the matter, who provided additional details in a briefing. Mr. Sestak declined the offer, the memo said.
Mr. Sestak, talking to reporters Friday, used the White House's terminology in describing the offer as a "presidential board," not his earlier description of a job offer. One of the possible advisory posts the White House had in mind, according to the person familiar with the matter, was on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. Its 16 members are unpaid and may not be federal government employees, meaning that Mr. Sestak may have had to leave his House seat to accept the position.
He said Mr. Clinton called him and said, "Joe, if you stay in the House, Rahm has brought up being appointed to a presidential board."
When Mr. Sestak interrupted the former president to refuse, he said, Mr. Clinton chuckled and replied, "Joe, I knew you were going to say that." The two of them never discussed it again, Mr. Sestak added.
A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation declined to comment on Mr. Clinton's role. Mr. Sestak, a former Navy officer, had served on the White House National Security Council under Mr. Clinton.
Some Republicans say the White House may have violated Section 600 of the federal criminal code, which makes it illegal to promise anyone an appointment in exchange for political activity, or in exchange for supporting or opposing a candidate.
"It says you can't offer an appointment, and that is exactly what the memo admits they were doing," said Hans von Spakovsky, who was appointed to the Federal Election Commission by President George W. Bush and is now with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "All the admissions they made provide the elements for a violation of the statute."
The administration's defenders say that interpretation misses the point of the law, which they say was aimed at machine politicians who offered people jobs to support their candidates.
"It's not about offering someone a job to sideline them," said Richard Painter, who was chief White House ethics lawyer under Mr. Bush. "It was about the spoils system and getting people to get out there and support someone in exchange for a job."
The attorney general has the power, without White House interference, to order an investigation or to decide whether one isn't merited. In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) last week, the Justice Department said its career prosecutors and investigators were capable of handling any criminal probe "if warranted." It rejected Mr. Issa's suggestion of a special prosecutor, but didn't say whether a Justice inquiry was being conducted. Congress also has the power to investigate, a development that seems unlikely under Democratic control.
An additional internal complication for the Obama administration is that Mr. Emanuel and Attorney General Eric Holder have clashed on major national security policy matters, most notably on Mr. Holder's decision to order a civilian trial in New York City for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Mr. Emanuel opposed the move, and White House officials have signaled that Mr. Obama is expected to overturn Mr. Holder's decision.
Another possible legal avenue for a probe could be to look into whether Mr. Emanuel's actions violated the Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from interfering with an election's outcome. The penalties for a transgression are civil, rather than criminal.
"If Sestak had taken the offer, not only would it have interfered with the result, it would have changed the result," said Scott Coffina, who specialized in ethics and elections in the Bush White House counsel's office.
But others say the Hatch Act was intended to prevent administration officials from pressuring subordinates into political activity. Mr. Painter says it makes little sense to interpret ethics laws too sweepingly in a world where every administration is involved in politics.
"You would make illegal a great deal of what government does," he said.
The White House said that reports that Mr. Sestak had been offered the position of Navy secretary were untrue. At the time of Mr. Clinton's conversation with Mr. Sestak, the Navy secretary job was already filled by Ray Mabus, who was nominated in March 2009, and confirmed two months later.
The White House memo said that the advisory post possibly filled by Mr. Sestak would have been related to intelligence or national security. Mr. Sestak served for 31 years in the Navy and is a former three-star admiral.
In the primary, Mr. Sestak defeated Mr. Obama's favored candidate, Mr. Specter, a former Republican who switched parties. Mr. Sestak faces Republican Pat Toomey in November.
Was Blago Right?