Issa Seeks Independent Probe of White House Job Offers
June 9, 2010 - 3:07 PMRep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has filed a referral to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to investigate job offers reportedly made by the White House to Democratic Senate candidates to keep them out of electoral primary races against other Democrats.
Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking for an investigation into whether White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina violated the Hatch Act that restricts federal employees from using their official authority to influence or interfere in an election.
Emanuel, according to White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer, asked former President Bill Clinton to recruit Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to serve on an unpaid presidential advisory board in exchange for dropping his Senate primary challenge to Republican-turned Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter.
In addition, Messina called Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff – who is challenging incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet – informing him there were three jobs available in USAID, the federal international aid agency. This contact was made to “avoid a costly battle between two supporters,” according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Both Sestak and Romanoff declined the White House offers and chose to stay in the Senate primary race. Sestak defeated Specter for the Democratic nomination last month.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency that focuses on civil service law, whistleblower protection and the Hatch Act. The acting U.S. special counsel is William Reukauf.
“Rahm Emanuel was leveraging the power and access of his official position to advance the political interests of the Democratic Party by affecting the result of the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary,” Issa wrote in his referral to the OSC.
“Averting divisive primary campaigns and protecting a Democratic seat in the U.S. House of Representatives are purely political concerns and as such, federal officials are prohibited from using their official authority or influence to address them,” Issa added.
Issa, in a separate referral about Messina, wrote to Reukauf that “this referral is based on evidence produced by former Speaker of the Colorado General Assembly Andrew Romanoff and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Speaker Romanoff is currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate.”
Issa also wrote: “In the White House’s June 3, 2010 public statement, Mr. Gibbs claimed that clearing the field for a candidate preferred by the White House was not problematic because ‘there was no offer of a job.’ There is evidence to the contrary.
“Additionally, a finding of a Hatch Act violation does not require that a job was formally offered; any use of official authority by a restricted federal official to interfere with or affect the outcome of an election is unlawful,” Issa added.
Gibbs said the White House counsel’s office has already investigated the matter.
“The counsel’s office has looked into each of these circumstances and determined that nothing inappropriate happened, and that’s what we believe,” Gibbs told reporters Wednesday in response to a question about the Issa referral of the Office of Special Counsel.
Issa and other House Republicans have asked the FBI to investigate the matter. The Justice Department denied a previous request by Issa to name a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.