Speaking of Felonies: The White House and the Sestak 'Bribe'

Speaking of Felonies: The White House and the Sestak 'Bribe'

While Democrats continue to accuse Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of being a felon until proven otherwise, it’s useful to remember an apparent felony that was allegedly committed by Barack Obama’s White House in 2009: the attempted bribe of Democrat Joe Sestak. Sestak claimed the Obama administration offered him a job if he would stay out of the primary in Pennsylvania for the U.S. Senate seat then held by Arlen Specter.

Specter, formerly a Republican, had switched parties in April 2009, giving Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate that enabled them to pass any law they wanted. Until the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy that August, and the surprise victory of Republican Scott Brown in the special election that followed in Massachusetts in January 2010, the Obama administration hoped to use that majority to rush through health care reform.

There was one small catch: Specter evidently expected to be repaid for his defection, and the Obama administration was eager to oblige by ensuring that he ran unopposed. So they attempted to dissuade Sestak from running–and Sestak made the offer public, in an effort to cast himself as a Washington outsider versus the octagenarian Specter, the consummate Beltway insider. He told the story several times on the campaign trail.

As Karl Rove pointed out at the time, either Sestak was lying, or the White House had committed a felony–namely, offering a government job in exchange for something of value. The independent-minded Jake Tapper of ABC News prodded President Obama’s then-press secretary, Robert Gibbs, for answers–and Gibbs had none. Future House oversight chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) said the scandal could be Obama’s Watergate.

In the end, it emerged that former president Bill Clinton had been the intermediary for the White House. Clinton and Sestak got their stories straight, and saved the White House by reassuring most of the public, the press and the opposition that nothing untoward had taken place. Charles Krauthammer called the White House response “deceptive,” but predicted–accurately–that the mainstream media would let it go.

Sestak went on to win the primary, but lost the general election to Republican Pat Toomey. The full story of the Sestak “bribe” has never been told. Yet it was critical to creating the early political momentum for Obamacare–and foreshadowed the later (legal, but awful) payoffs that were offered to secure its passage: the “Louisiana Purchase” and the “Cornhusker Kickback,” among the most notorious examples. 

There has never been a full investigation into Sestak’s claim, much less any kind of prosecution. We don’t know whether the Obama administration committed a felony–but the evidence is very strong. It is far stronger than the baseless innuendo hurled at Mitt Romney by Democrats–with the full support of Obama himself, who has refused to apologize for his campaign’s outrageous accusation that Romney might be a “felon.” 

The Obama campaign seems to be in a mood for investigations. So, fine–let’s call Joe Sestak back to Capitol Hill. Let’s put Bill Clinton on the witness stand (we all know how well that went last time). Let’s expose the truth behind a real, substantive allegation of felonious conduct–not some made-up fantasy from David Axelrod’s agitprop shop. Let’s see how far that trail leads–and whether Barack Obama is, himself, the felon-in-chief.

Photo credit: Harry Hamburg/AP


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