Thursday, June 3, 2010

Richard Painter: Administration Job Offers Were Not Illegal

The Obama administration is catching some flack from conservatives for allegedly offering positions to candidates if they drop out of the race. Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for the president during the Bush administration pointed out on the Legal Ethics Forum that it was not a requirement of the Obama administration for these individuals to drop out of the election, it was federal law.
The White House last year apparently approached another Senate candidate, Andrew Romanoff of Colorado, with the possibility of a job offer in the Administration. Romanoff, like Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, did not pursue the discussions and decided to proceed with his bid for the seat held by another Democrat, Senator Michael Bennet.

Once again the story is that the job offers were “conditioned” upon a candidate dropping out of the Senate race. As I have pointed out in the Sestak matter, this “condition” is already imposed by the Hatch Act on full time Executive Branch employees. A person who accepts such an Administration job cannot run for office in a partisan election, whether the White House wants him to or not. The White House can offer a part time advisory board position instead, in which case the Hatch Act provisions might not apply and the person could also run for office, but such an advisory board position is hardly an inducement to give up a decent chance of becoming a Senator.
Painter does take a position critical of the administration, and that is allow the elections to proceed without running interference, and I agree.
I don’t like this, and voters in the effected states certainly shouldn’t like it.  Once a candidate has declared an intention to run for federal office, the White House should back off and let the voters decide.  Then the White House can give the loser a job if it is warranted.  There are plenty of other people to fill Administration posts in the meantime.
I think that this next paragraph should be read by pretty much everyone over at Fox News.
Not liking it and saying it is illegal are two different things.  Once again, for reasons already mentioned I don’t see illegality unless of course someone lies about it.  If Congress wants to make this practice illegal, perhaps Congress should enact a law saying that no person who has filed papers to run in a federal election may be contacted by anyone in the Executive Branch about possible employment until the election is over. 
The administration should have avoided such offers considering the president was elected on the promise of changing the way things are done in Washington.  I know, with the current Republican strategy, the Democrats may have had to adjust slightly, but it just looks bad.  Hopefully the administration has learned their lesson and won't be offering any more jobs to candidates.

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