06.03.2010 0

Sestak Case Unraveling the Rule of Law

By Bill Wilson

Last week’s surprising admission by White House Counsel Robert Bauer that a Presidential appointment was indeed offered last year to Representative Joe Sestak as an alternative to him running for the Senate may prove to be a test of whether the rule of law exists in this nation anymore.

18 U.S.C. § 600 clearly states that “Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit… to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity… in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election… shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.”

Although the White House Counsel claims that nothing improper occurred, and that the offer was “fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements”, that does not make it so. Nor does it exonerate the Administration from wrongdoing in this case.

The appointment offered, even an “uncompensated” role on a Presidential advisory board, clearly falls under this statute, and asking Sestak to drop out of the Senate race certainly constitutes a “political activity”. That the law was violated does not appear to be in question to anyone willing to undergo an honest reading of the relevant statute.

Nobody expects Bauer to prosecute this crime anyway. He is the White House Counsel. His job is to defend Barack Obama. If it were simply left up to defense attorneys to determine if their clients had violated the law, there’d be a lot of judges and prosecutors out of work, as no prosecutions would ever occur.

An independent investigation is therefore needed, and if any case ever screamed for a special prosecutor, this is it. The trouble is that only Attorney General Eric Holder can appoint one.

Speaking on his radio program on June 1st, former Senator Fred Thompson, whose line of questioning as a minority counsel on the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities during the Watergate hearings revealed Richard Nixon’s White House audio-taping system, compared the situation to the Scooter Libby case. In that case a special prosecutor was appointed by the Bush Administration. Thompson points out that the independent counsel involved at the time “knew that no violation of the law had been committed… [A]nd yet they went ahead and appointed [a prosecutor], and created a violation of the law in the process of the investigation, saying that Scooter Libby lied about certain things because he couldn’t remember things the same way that Tim Russert did…”

One will recall that Libby was investigated for the alleged outing of Valerie Plame’s job at the CIA, a charge that he, in the end, was not even prosecuted for. It turns out that the State Department’s Richard Armitage was the original source for the leak to Robert Novak, and he was not prosecuted either. Apparently there was no initial violation of the law that had occurred.

Thompson hits the nail on the head. In that case, with no violation of the law at all, a special prosecutor was appointed to look into the matter, producing an unrelated perjury charge to a party who it turned out was not even the primary target of the investigation.

In contrast, with the obvious violation of the law with the Sestak job offer, Thompson notes that “It took them three months to get their story together, and nobody’s calling for an inquiry about this.” It’s a valid point, one that goes to the heart about whether or not there is a consistent application of the rule of law in our republic.

That is why Americans for Limited Government in February called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the job offered to Sestak, to call witnesses to testify under oath, and to get to the bottom of whether Obama himself authorized Rahm Emmanuel and former President Bill Clinton to make the job offer. That is also why yesterday we urged Representative Darrell Issa to launch a House investigation into the case to determine if Sestak is now changing his story to cover up wrongdoing by the Obama Administration.

Otherwise, Thompson has a point: “does this mean that when the shoe’s on the other foot again in a Republican Administration, we’re going to have the same standard apply?” It’s a fair question. And how it is answered will determine whether crimes committed by government officials are only prosecuted against one class of people: Republicans.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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