Smith Wants Judiciary Panel to Probe Job Offers

Posted June 4, 2010 at 11:56am

House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) called Friday for his committee to hold hearings on allegations that the Obama administration enticed Democratic candidates with plum federal positions in an attempt to avoid competitive primary contests.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Thursday for the White House to release all information pertaining to its conversations with the candidates, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and former Colorado Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), who are seeking Senate seats in their respective states.

In his letter to Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Smith, who requested the panel hold hearings after the Memorial Day recess, called for a host of witnesses including former President Bill Clinton, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, as well as Sestak and Romanoff.

“The allegations against the White House against the Obama White House are severe. Just as the Judiciary Committee investigated allegations against the previous Administration, we must initiate an investigation into this matter,” Smith wrote.

The Texas lawmaker compared the Sestak and Romanoff allegations to those leveled against former President George W. Bush’s administration over political interference in the operation of the Justice Department, including the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006.

Smith also reiterated Republican arguments that the Obama administration may have violated federal laws in its dealings with Sestak and Romanoff.

“Taken at face value, it appears that violations of federal law — including 18 U.S.C. 600, 18 U.S.C. 211, and 18 U.S.C. 595 — may have occurred. These statues prohibit solicitation of certain public offices, the promise of government employment in exchange for political activity, and improper interference by Administration employees in political campaigns,” Smith wrote.

But attorney Stan Brand, a former House counsel, said Friday that the Justice Department has not historically pursued such allegations, noting that the laws are aimed at patronage crimes, or selling civil service jobs, rather than “political horse trading.”

“They’re trying to get traction on that, but it doesn’t fit. You won’t find any prosecutions of this type of stuff, of Republican or Democratic presidents,” Brand said.

“The department has rightly taken the view historically that political players of equal status and power aren’t covered,” Brand said.