What’s with the Sestak case: felony, political stupidity, or bad ethics?

Ethics Bob has to comment on the Sestak case, under penalty of losing his ethicist license. First, the background.

While campaigning in the Democratic primary for the U.S. senate seat from Pennsylvania against incumbent Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, Congressman Joe Sestak said that the Administration had offered him a big job, hinted to be Secretary of the Navy, if he would get out of the race. He wouldn’t say who made the offer, and the White House wouldn’t say anything. After winning the primary mostly because Specter kept getting confused about which party’s endorsement he was seeking, Sestak repeated the claim, then became coy about who and what, finally clamming up completely.

In the wake of a furor on all sides over a possible felony and cover-up, the White House this morning released its official review of the affair by White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer. There had been an effort, made not by the White House staff but by Bill Clinton, (haha), “to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in [uncompensated] service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board.”

The lawyer’s memo gave a traditional lawyer’s analysis:

· We didn’t do it.

· The guy who did it didn’t make an offer, he just asked a question.

· The question wasn’t about a real job, just about an unpaid advisorship.

· It was perfectly legal when he did it.

· Everybody does it.

The White House counsel is normally the final authority over whether the law has been broken, so Bauer’s letter settles that: nothing illegal.

Politically it’s another story. The Administration ineptly broke the first rule of staying out of legal and political trouble: It’s not the act, it’s the cover-up.

Ethically it’s clear enough: The Administration had promised to support turncoat-squared Specter in the primary, and that reasonably involved trying to persuade Sestak to stay out. We don’t know what Clinton said, but Bauer’s memo describes a general conversation, not an offer, and such conversations are an absolutely necessary part of building political alliances and therefore of representative democracy.

So to sum up, here are the Administration’s grades for the Sestak case:

· Legal: Pass

· Ethical: Pass

· Transparent: Fail (This was a major Obama campaign promise)

· Political: Very poor

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4 Responses to “What’s with the Sestak case: felony, political stupidity, or bad ethics?”

  1. Jack Marshall Says:

    Assuming one believes Clinton and Bauer. Then SESTAK becomes the liar. I dunno….

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    Bauer doesn’t lie, ex officio, and Clinton would NEVER lie.

  3. Scottie Womer Says:

    Wow yet another scandal. Clearly this has the markings of one big cover up. Sestak should have just taken the Secretary of the Navy position and kept his mouth shut. Now he is going to embroil Obama, Rahm, and Bill Clinton. Doesn’t Bill Clinton have nicer things to do that get involved in this Nixonian type of mess? What would Blago do?

  4. Ethics Bob Says:

    You’re close to right about the cover-up. I call it the clam-up. THAT’S the scandal, nothing more (as I described in my blog)

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