There’s a scene in the closing minutes of the 1972 blockbuster movie, “The Godfather,” when Michael Corleone turns to his brother-in-law and says, “You have to answer for Santino, Carlo.” The nefarious Carlo had set up Santino Corleone &tstr; Sonny &tstr; for a calamitous fall.
The compelling scene may resonate with Arlen Specter supporters who wonder whether their candidate was set up by Joe Sestak during the Democratic primary campaign. Sestak claimed in February that, early on, the Obama administration tried to get him to forego his Senate bid in favor of a cushy, high-paying, high-profile government job.
Sestak said repeatedly on the campaign trail that he declined the job offer, but he refused to be any more specific. This led many Specter supporters to doubt the veracity of the claim. Despite the lack of details, the allegation gained considerable traction with Democratic voters upset with politics as usual in Washington.
No doubt, it was one of the pivotal moments for Sestak in his successful campaign against Specter, who had switched from Republican to Democrat last year and had the strong support of President Obama. With the primary results in, Sestak may think the controversy is over. He’s wrong.
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) still thinks Sestak needs to come clean about his claim, and he’s puzzled why Sestak continues to hold back. “Could the reason why Congressman Joe Sestak refuses to name names is because the very people who tried to bribe him are now his benefactors?” Issa asks. Issa adds that Sestak has a “moral imperative” to reveal who in the Obama administration was behind the lucrative job offer.
But this isn’t a moral issue alone, potentially it is a criminal one. A felony may have been committed.
Issa has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to name a special prosecutor to investigate the Democrat Sestak. Fine. But, it’s not likely to happen in a Democratic administration with a Democratic-led Congress.
Sestak, himself, could clear up the matter in an instant by being more forthright about just what happened between him and the White House. Sestak’s allegation may have helped him in the primary, but it will do little in the fall unless he provides all the details. It may even hurt him among the voters, if he doesn’t. Sestak’s silence only serves to raise suspicion as to his true motives. He needs to step up.
You have to answer to the voters, Joe.
Alexis LIchtenstein, 4, touches a bracelet on the wrist of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak while Sestak was making a campaign stop at the Atrium Restaurant in Kingston.
Jobs have been very much on the minds of Americans lately, but there is one job in particular that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has its sights on: The one U.S. Rep. Joseph Sestak, D-7, of Edgmont, said someone at the White House offered him to bow out of the Democratic Senate primary race against U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.
Following his win over Specter in the May 18 primary election, Sestak now faces former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey in the November general election. The White House was backing Specter in that primary when the alleged offer came in July of last year, but has now put its weight behind Sestak for the seat.
Over the weekend, Sestak made two television appearances where he was pressed to reveal exactly what was offered, but he has refused to elaborate. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sestak told host David Gregory that he was offered a job, but still wouldn’t say what that job was. On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sestak again said an offer had been made, but that was all.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also appeared on “Face the Nation,” but said only that “nothing inappropriate happened,” according to White House lawyers. “I’m not going to get further into what the conversations were,” said Gibbs. “People that have looked into them assure me that they weren’t inappropriate in any way.”
Republicans, however, think they smell blood in the water. An NRSC missive on the issue from spokeswoman Amber Marchand Monday changed the tone of the debate by claiming Sestak had “received” a bribe while U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., upped the rhetoric by calling the alleged offer “an assault on our democracy” and “downright criminal.”
Issa, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has meanwhile requested the Department of Justice investigate the allegation. He cited a federal statute that bars federal employees from using “official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate” to the U.S. Senate and other seats. Such a violation could carry a fine or imprisonment up to a year, according to the statute.
Former Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has joined the chorus pressuring Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., to disclose exactly who at the White House offered him exactly what administration position in exchange for dropping out of the U.S. Senate primary. Interest in Sestak’s alleged job offer has intensified after his stunning defeat of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who was President Barack Obama’s favored candidate. Republicans and Democrats have come forward in recent days saying Sestak has an obligation to set the record straight.
Toomey urged Sestak on Monday to start talking, largely so the scrutiny doesn’t distract from their Senate campaign. Toomey and Sestak have pledged to battle over policy differences, not petty politics. Toomey said he weighed in so the issue can be put to rest.
“Sestak’s support for the policies that are bankrupting our country and killing jobs is of much greater concern to me than whatever deal-making was done between him and the White House,” said Toomey, 49, of Zionsville, Pa. “Joe and I disagree on many important issues, from health care to bailouts to the unprecedented debt being racked up in Washington. … Joe can clear that all away by simply disclosing all the facts that he knows, and I urge him to do that.”
But Sestak, who maintains he was propositioned by the White House to drop out of the race against Specter, refuses to provide additional details. And the White House says whatever conversations took place were “not inappropriate.”
When Sestak first made the claim on a Philadelphia radio station in late February, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent letters to the White House asking for more information.
Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to look into it. But the Justice Department rejected Issa’s request in a letter sent to him Friday but not publicly released, the newspaper Politico reported Monday night.
Issa still might seek to subpoena the White House through his position on the Oversight panel, according to Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella. Recently, Issa threatened to ask the House Ethics Committee to investigate on grounds that Sestak may be covering up criminal activity by the White House. Issa contends that if a quid pro quo took place, the White House may have committed a felony.
Although “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” is common in politics, a direct offer conditioned on Sestak getting out of Specter’s way could be illegal. The law says that an administration official cannot use his authority to interfere with the election of any candidate for office. The law also says no one can promise employment in exchange for political activity.
Even White House senior adviser David Axelrod, speaking Monday night on CNN, said such an offer would constitute a breach of the law. But he said the White House has looked into it and Sestak’s claim is unfounded.
Sestak has taken the brunt of the criticism. Issa invoked Sestak’s military career, quoting a line from the Navy Code of Ethics that says he should “place loyalty to … the laws … above private gain” and “disclose … corruption to appropriate authorities.”
“The integrity of three-star Admiral Joe Sestak is at stake,” Issa said in a statement. “Admiral Joe Sestak likes to highlight his distinguished 31-year career in the United States Navy, here’s his chance to practice what he preaches. By choosing to protect the person inside the Obama White House who facilitated this illegal and felonious act, Admiral Sestak is betraying the very principles he built a 31-year career of service on.”
Since the issue resurfaced, others have urged Sestak to open up. U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y, said on MSNBC that someone needs to say, “Here are the facts,” so people aren’t still “talking about this next week.” Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also has suggested Sestak fess up. Republicans appear eager to keep Sestak, 58, of Media, Pa., on the defensive. The chairman of the state Republican Party, Robert Gleason, has dubbed it “jobgate.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak pledged Monday to “absolutely” comply with investigators if his claims of a politically motivated White House job offer become the focus of a federal probe. Mr. Sestak, the Democratic winner in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary, has refused to publicly discuss details of the offer since it was revealed three months ago and maintained that tack Monday in Kingston, saying additional discussion was “just getting into politics.”
U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to probe whether the offer, supposedly made last summer to clear the primary field for five-term incumbent Arlen Specter, blurred political and legal bounds. The Department of Justice rejected Mr. Issa’s request to appoint a special counsel to the case, but said in a written response Friday that the matter could still be investigated.
Mr. Sestak disclosed the job offer during a television interview on aPhiladelphia cable outlet in February and has answered questions since in retrospective fashion, confirming only what was said on the broadcast and leaving anonymous “others” to fill in the rest.
Mr. Sestak, who retired as a three-star admiral after 31 years in the Navy, channeled his military experience as a guide in approaching the job offer questions, which have threatened to disrupt what one House staffer described as his post-primary “victory lap.”
Mr. Sestak’s opponent, conservative former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, said Monday that Mr. Sestak should reveal as much as he knows about the job offer publicly, instead of waiting for investigators.
“Congressman Sestak should tell the public everything he knows about the job he was offered, and who offered it,” Mr. Toomey said in a statement. “To do otherwise will only continue to raise questions and continue to be a needless distraction in this campaign.”
It could well be, as White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs repeated on Sunday, that “nothing inappropriate” went on when someone from the Obama administration conversed with Joe Sestak about a potential job offer.
But if that’s the case, then the White House should just say what happened. These comments by Sestak that, yeah, somebody talked to me about a job, and from Gibbs that, no, nothing inappropriate went on, are just fanning the flames of a controversy that maybe doesn’t have to exist.
The implication is that the White House offered Sestak a job in exchange for him not running a Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania against Arlen Specter. If it was expressed as a quid pro quo — get out of the race and we’ll reward you with a lucrative job — that would appear to violate federal election laws offering federal jobs in return for political favors.
If it was something more vague — there may be opportunities for you to serve without running for the Pennsylvania Senate seat — then it would seem to be the sort of give and take that characterizes politics.
One thing for certain is this is not going away. Republicans have caught a scent of red meat, and they’ll gnaw on it all through the general election, accusing Sestak of covering up a possible felony.
The White House should take the advice of Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.) and disclose who said what to whom.