The New York Times reports today on a strange story about the Pennsylvania Senate race. Political horse-trading is a fact of life inside the Beltway, but Republicans have seized on efforts by the Obama Administration to convince Congressman and retired Admiral Joe Sestak to drop out of the Democratic primary and to clear the way for Arlen Specter as a possible scandal. According to the White House, there was no wrongdoing:
The office of Robert F. Bauer, the White House counsel, has concluded that Mr. Emanuel’s proposal did not violate laws prohibiting government employees from promising employment as a reward for political activity because the position being offered was unpaid. The office also found other examples of presidents offering positions to political allies to achieve political aims.In a tough election, a candidate will often make special deals with his or her primary opponents in order to consolidate support for their party earlier in the election cycle, especially at the national level. If then-candidate Obama had not offered Hillary Clinton a high-level post in his administration in return for her support, the 2008 Democratic National Convention would have been a disaster. Although Obama had a slight advantage in the delegate counts, Hillary could have easily caused a split in the party.
Now that Obama is President, we have seen other examples of special deals that are probably not illegal, but are also pretty sleazy. The attempt to eliminate the ability of Republicans to filibuster in the Senate by appointing Senator Judd Gregg as a cabinet secretary was particularly egregious. However, the Hatch Act specifically prohibits the use of influence to influence an election. Whereas Gregg was already a sitting Senator who was asked to resign, Sestak had not yet been elected.
By now it is an old joke that Obama has brought the "Chicago Way" of politics to Washington. Despite the largest Democratic majority in Congress in a generation, the Obama Administration, lead by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has taken an aggressive and risky approach to further consolidate political power. Even if the allegations of scandal prove to be unfounded in this case, it is only a matter of time before the Chicago way of doing business catches up with this administration.