Paul Jacob

Unless, of course, you bother to read the White House memorandum as well as the law in question.

There are two federal statutes at issue. One states it is a crime if someone “directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or any other benefit . . . 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.” The other makes it illegal for a government official to use “his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate.”

Mr. Bauer’s memo is not only not a serious legal defense of the actions of this White House, it amounts to an admission of guilt.

A deal is not denied: “We found that, as the Congressman has publicly and accurately stated, options for Executive Branch service were raised with him. Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary. . . .”

Though the law specifically forbids promises of an “appointment,” Obama’s lawyer hangs his hat on the fact that the dangled positions would be unpaid, writing, “The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak, while important to the work of the Administration, would have been uncompensated.”

Further, even as the law bans such actions whether taken “directly or indirectly,” Bauer hides behind the fact that, “White House staff did not discuss these options with Congressman Sestak. 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.”

The memorandum concludes on a high note by arguing that everybody else in Washington breaks the law, too. “There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations — both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals — discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office.”

Political insiders and longtime scribes in Washington dismiss this controversy as a tempest in a teapot, as nothing more than the way politics works. This reaction alone provides a very clear indication of how demented politics has become. Putting political advance ahead of the public trust, placing people in government positions by cronyism and political deals rather than merit —standard operating procedure. This is acceptable? Excusable?

The Obama Administration has lost its last dollop of perfume, now claiming its stench no more pungent than prior administrations’.

But what about Rep. Sestak? When he divulged the shady offer, he used it effectively to show he was independent and not susceptible to being bullied or bribed. But why did he clam up?

The answer seems obvious: He knew it would cause problems for the White House and his party. Independence? Oops!

Sestak gave up his campaign theme when he chose to align his political fortunes with his party’s, putting political standing above the public’s right to know.

That’s the clear message in all this. Whatever extent Obama and Sestak remain committed to serving the public, it takes a distant back-seat to their first priority, the maintenance of their political power.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.