After three months of zipped lips and feigned ignorance, the Obama White House is finally taking real heat over Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak's consistent claims that the administration offered him a job to drop his Senate bid. Now it's time to redirect the spotlight where it belongs: on the top counsel behind the Washington stonewall, Bob "The Silencer" Bauer.
On Sunday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs glibly asserted that "lawyers in the White House and others have looked into conversations that were had with Congressman Sestak. And nothing inappropriate happened." With whom were these conversations had? Gibbs won't say. Neither will Attorney General Eric Holder, who dismissed "hypotheticals" when questioned about Sestak's allegations last week on Capitol Hill by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Holder is simply taking his cue from the commander-in-chief's personal lawyer and Democratic Party legal boss.
You see, on March 10, Issa also sent a letter to Bauer, the White House counsel to the president, requesting specifics: Did White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel contact Sestak? Did White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina (whom another Democrat, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, has accused of offering a cabinet position in exchange for his withdrawal)? How about the White House Office of Political Affairs? Any other individuals? What position(s) was/were offered in exchange for Sestak's withdrawal? And what, if any, steps did Bauer take to investigate possible criminal activity?
Bauer's answers? Zip. Nada. Zilch. While the veteran attorney ducked under a table with the president, Gibbs stalled publicly as long as he could -- deferring inquiries about the allegations one week by claiming he had been "on the road" and had "not had a chance to delve into this," and then admitting the next week that he had "not made any progress on that," refusing the week after that to deny or admit the scheme, and then urging reporters to drop it because "whatever happened is in the past."
But the laws governing such public corruption are still on the books. And unlike Gibbs, the U.S. code governing bribery, graft and conflicts of interest is rather straightforward: "Whoever solicits or receives ... any ... 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."
Bauer is intimately familiar with electoral law, Barack Obama, ethics violations and government job-trading allegations. And he's an old hand at keeping critics and inquisitors at bay.
A partner at the prestigious law firm Perkins Coie, Bauer served as counsel to the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Obama for America. He also served as legal counsel to the George Soros-funded 527 organization America Coming Together during the 2004 campaign. That get-out-the-vote outfit, helmed by Patrick Gaspard (the former Service Employees International Union heavy turned Obama domestic policy chief), employed convicted felons as canvassers and committed campaign finance violations that led to a $775,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission under Bauer's watch.
As I've reported previously, it was Bauer who lobbied the Justice Department unsuccessfully in 2008 to pursue a criminal probe of American Issues Project (AIP), an independent group that sought to run an ad spotlighting Obama's ties to Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. It was Bauer who attempted to sic the Justice Department on AIP funder Harold Simmons and who sought his prosecution for funding the ad. And it was Bauer who tried to bully television stations across the country to compel them to pull the spot. All on Obama's behalf.
More significantly, Bauer has served as Obama's personal attorney, navigating the corrupted waters of former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pay-for-play scandals in Illinois. Bauer accompanied Obama to an interview with federal investigators in Chicago. And he's got his hands full fighting Blago's motion to subpoena Obama in the Senate-seat-for-sale trial -- a subpoena that included references to a secret phone call between Obama and Blagojevich; an allegation that Emanuel floated his own suggested replacement for Obama's seat; an allegation that Obama told a "certain labor union official" that he would support (now-White House senior adviser) Valerie Jarrett to fill his old seat; and a bombshell allegation that Obama might have lied about conversations with convicted briber and fraudster Tony Rezko.
With not one, not two, but three Democrats (Sestak, Romanoff and Blagojevich) all implicating the agent of Hope and Change in dirty backroom schemes, "Trust Us" ain't gonna cut it. Neither will "Shut Up and Go Away." What did Bob "The Silencer" Bauer know, when did he know it, and how long does the Most Transparent Administration Ever plan to play dodgeball with the public?
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