Pa. congressman’s claim of federal job offer raises issues

    U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak’s claim three months ago that the White House offered him a federal job if he’d back out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary has become a national story since his win over incumbent Arlen Specter last week.

    Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak’s claim three months ago that the White House offered him a federal job if he’d back out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary has become a national story since his win over incumbent Arlen Specter last week.

    WHYY’s Dave Davies looks at the issues the controversy raises.

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    Offering public jobs to keep candidates out of a race is an old tradition, but the parties involved in such arrangements rarely talk about them.

    Because Sestak said publicly in February that he was offered a job to get out of the Senate race, Republicans are now demanding that he and the White House provide details.

    Here’s Karl Rove on the Fox News channel.

    Rove:
    Look that’s a violation of the federal code. Eighteen US-C-600 says a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government in return for a political act. Somebody violated the law. If Sestak is telling the truth somebody violated the law.

    If a prosecutor were to start investigating, Sestak and White House officials might have to explain under oath just what was said between them.

    Melanie Sloane, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says don’t hold your breath.

    Sloane:

    It strikes me as incredibly unlikely that the Justice Department would try to extend bribery law in such an unusual direction. I don’t think either political party would want to see that happen either, because this happens on both sides of the aisle routinely. Folks are offered political jobs for political reasons all the time.

    Justice Department guidelines for the statute Rove referred to say it wasn’t intended to apply to senior government positions where “a degree of political loyalty may be considered a necessary aspect of performance.”

    Even if a criminal probe is unlikely, Republicans in Congress will press for an ethics investigation and continue to raise the issue.

    White House officials insist nothing improper occurred, but won’t say who said what.

    Sestak, who opened this can of worms, says he wants to focus on the issues in the campaign.

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