I've been trying to make people understand that a White House job offer to Joe Sestak could not be a quid pro quo -- let alone an illegal quid pro quo -- because the quid (Sestak accepts an executive branch job) is identical to the quo (Sestak quits the Pennsylvania primary race.) Maybe you don't believe me. Scott Galupo doesn't, writing, "Splitting hairs Michael Kinsley-style, Chait has outhunk himself here." I've never been called a "hunk" before, and I'm guessing Kinsley hasn't, either. In any case, even if you choose to disregard my logic on account of my rakish good looks, at least listen to former Bush administration ethics counsel Richard Painter:
The allegation that the job offer was somehow a “bribe” in return for Sestak not running in the primary is difficult to support. Sestak, if he had taken a job in the Administration, would not have been permitted to run in the Pennsylvania primary. The Hatch Act prohibits a federal employee from being a candidate for nomination or election to a partisan political office. 5 U.S.C. § 7323(a)(3). He had to choose one or the other, but he could not choose both.
The job offer may have been a way of getting Sestak out of Specter’s way, but this also is nothing new. Many candidates for top Administration appointments are politically active in the President’s political party. Many are candidates or are considering candidacy in primaries. White House political operatives don’t like contentious fights in their own party primaries and sometimes suggest jobs in the Administration for persons who otherwise would be contenders. For the White House, this is usually a “win-win” situation, giving the Administration politically savvy appointees in the Executive Branch and fewer contentious primaries for the Legislative Branch. This may not be best for voters who have less choice as a result, and Sestak thus should be commended for saying “no”. The job offer, however, is hardly a “bribe” when it is one of two alternatives that are mutually exclusive.