The White House chooses the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend to unload the news -- in the form of a memo from the White House counsel, so that anyone he talked to about it is covered by both lawyer-client privilege and executive privilege -- that "The White House Chief of Staff enlisted the support of former President Clinton who agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board." There's no explanation of why Mr. Clinton was enlisted for this task. If it would have been legal or appropriate for a White House official to do it directly, why bother getting Mr. Clinton involved? And if it would have been illegal or inappropriate for a White House official to do it directly, does the use of a cut-out, even if it comports with the letter of the law, match the spirit of the law or the administration's stated intention to set a high ethical bar?
A FutureOfCapitalism.com reader-watchdog-community member-participant-content co-creator sends some of the laws that may be at issue:
18 U.S.C. § 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.
18 U.S.C. § 211. Acceptance or solicitation to obtain appointive public office:
Whoever solicits or receives, either as a political contribution, or for personal emolument, any money or thing of value, in consideration of the promise of support or use of influence in obtaining for any person any appointive office or place under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both. Whoever solicits or receives any thing of value in consideration of aiding a person to obtain employment under the United States either by referring his name to an executive department or agency of the United States or by requiring the payment of a fee because such person has secured such employment shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both<>. This section shall not apply to such services rendered by an employment agency pursuant to the written request of an executive department or agency of the United States.
18 U.S.C. § 595. Interference by administrative employees of Federal, State, or Territorial Governments:
Whoever, being a person employed in any administrative position by the United States, or by any department or agency thereof, or by the District of Columbia or any agency or instrumentality thereof, or by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States, or any political subdivision, municipality, or agency thereof, or agency of such political subdivision or municipality (including any corporation owned or controlled by any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States or by any such political subdivision, municipality, or agency), in connection with any activity which is financed in whole or in part by loans or grants made by the United States, or any department or agency thereof, uses his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
This section shall not prohibit or make unlawful any act by any officer or employee of any educational or research institution, establishment, agency, or system which is supported in whole or in part by any state or political subdivision thereof, or by the District of Columbia or by any Territory or Possession of the United States; or by any recognized religious, philanthropic or cultural organization.
I defended President Bush and Karl Rove during the U.S. Attorneys "scandal" on the grounds that it is the president's executive branch and he should be able to hire or fire anyone he wants to an executive branch job. Like it or not, the president is both a political figure and a government figure, and, as hard as Congress tries, it's difficult to separate those two roles. At the same time, as we wrote when we first mentioned the Sestak scandal here all the way back in March, "Whether it is criminal or not, it's not particularly attractive to see the Obama administration using executive branch jobs as currency to deny Democratic primary voters a choice of candidates. How parties choose candidates is up to the parties themselves, but the use of taxpayer-funded jobs as a tool to weed out the field of candidates is something that might reasonably concern non-Democrats as well."
The White House counsel memo says the jobs on offer were unpaid, which takes the "taxpayer-funded" issue out of the equation. But the fact remains the Democratic primary voters of Pennsylvania chose Mr. Sestak over Mr. Specter, and President Obama's chief of staff and Bill Clinton were working to deny them that choice. You'd think the political implications of that for Mr. Obama in the swing state of Pennsylvania would be sufficient consequence that no criminal investigation is required.
Add to that the fact of Bill Clinton's involvement as a kind of political dirty tricks messenger for President Obama, who won a lot of Democratic votes against Senator Clinton by telling voters, directly or indirectly, that he would bring "change" to Washington. This doesn't seem like "change," it seems like more of Bill Clinton, who has been on the national political stage since at least 1992, 18 years ago.