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The Sestak Scandal: This is "Draining the Swamp?"

A Commentary by Howard Rich

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In addition to promising an end to Republicans’ out-of-control spending, Democrats vowed to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington D.C. prior to winning their Congressional majorities in 2006. Of course that was just an entrée for the real “hope and change” to come, as Barack Obama stormed to victory in the presidential election two years later promising to “change Washington” – and cut taxes for a majority of Americans.

In both cases, Democrats positioned themselves to the right of Republicans on fiscal issues – which obviously wasn’t very hard to do given the GOP’s record of excess – and then hammered away relentlessly on Republican corruption. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, blasted a “seriously ethical and possibly criminal streak” in the GOP.

“An ethical cloud hangs over the Capitol,” Pelosi said in 2005. “This culture of corruption must stop.”

Yet now - just over a year into Obama’s first term (and over three years since the Democratic takeover of Congress), has that “culture of corruption” stopped?

Of course not. In fact, both fiscally and ethically, things have only grown more putrid in the Washington D.C. “swamp” that Democrats promised to drain.

In addition to reneging on their promises of tax relief, Democrats have put the reckless and unsustainable spending of their GOP predecessors on steroids, adding nearly $6 trillion to the national debt over the past three years alone. But they’ve also taken the low road ethically, as evidenced by the glorified bribes that were offered to (and accepted by) Senators Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson in exchange for their support of Obama’s socialized medicine proposal. Then there are the scandals involving disgraced House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel and former Reps. William Jefferson and Eric Massa – as well as the numerous tax scandals that have plagued so many of Obama’s appointments to critical Cabinet posts.

More troubling, however, is the case of Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, who has stated publicly on more than one occasion that the Obama administration offered him a high-paying job in the federal government in exchange for dropping out of a Democratic primary with party-switching Senator Arlen Specter.

“Yes,” Sestak said last month in response to a Philadelphia reporter who asked him if the White House had offered him a job to forego challenging Specter.

Sestak later confirmed his account to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

“Something happened last July, before I got into the race, and I never got asked about it,” Sestak told Scarborough. “All of a sudden, somebody asked me. And, you know, I answered it honestly. I just said yes.”

Obviously, it’s illegal for a federal official to bribe a candidate like that, and while the Obama-friendly mainstream media has largely fallen asleep on the Sestak scandal (choosing instead to focus on the lurid details of Rep. Massa’s fall from grace), it’s pretty clear that the allegation has struck a nerve.

First, the White House issued a blanket denial of Sestak’s charge – although it did so anonymously, a move which raised plenty of eyebrows. Also, when pressed on the issue three days after the allegation was first made, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a reporter "I haven't looked into this.” He promised to get answers, but a week later Gibbs apologized, saying "I have not made any progress on that.”

Sadly, this isn’t the only thing Obama and his Congressional allies haven’t “made any progress on.”

In addition to abandoning middle class tax cuts and spending restraint in favor of tax hikes and record deficit spending, Obama’s “hope and change” have also been replaced by corrupt insider deal-making and Gangland-style bribery.

The end result? As was the case three years ago, Washington’s “swamp” is still in need of a good draining.

Howard Rich is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government .

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