Folks, here's the latest helping of Hannity Insanity!
From Media Matters for America --- June 2, 2010:
Legal experts debunk Hannity's Sestak "crime" claims point-by-point:
Over the past week, Sean Hannity and his guests have cited six different statutes that they claim were violated when the White House offered a position on a panel to Rep. Joe Sestak. Legal experts have repudiated the claim that any of those statutes apply to the offer.
18 U.S.C. § 600: Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity
The claim: Hannity has repeatedly claimed the Sestak offer violated 18 U.S.C. § 600.
On the May 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity, discussing laws he believes were violated by the Sestak offer, Hannity said, "We have 18 U.S. Code 600 says that the -- a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government in return for a political act."
On the May 26 edition of Hannity, discussing laws he believes were violated by the Sestak offer, Hannity said, "All right, 18 U.S. Code 600 says a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government in return for a political act."
On the May 27 edition of his Fox News program, Hannity said, "Eighteen U.S. Code 600 says a federal official cannot promise employment, a job in the federal government in return for a political act," and concluded, "Seems to me that Joe Sestak is claiming a felony was committed."
On the May 28 edition of Fox News program, Hannity said that 18 U.C.S. § 600 was "almost written" to ban acts like the Sestak offer. He later said that the offer was "by my interpretation of the law, still be a thing of value for a political act... Which is against the law. U.S. Code 18, U.S. Code 600, 18 U.S. Code 210, 211."
The statute. 18 U.S.C. § 600 reads:
Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
The rebuttals. Legal experts have rebutted the claim that the Sestak offer violated 18 U.S.C. § 600, including:
Bush ethics lawyer Painter: "I cannot see how this statute can be reasonably applied" to this case. In a May 28 post, The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported of his interview that day with former Bush administration chief ethics lawyer Richard Painter. Painter also took issue with the notion that the version of events aired by the White House today could in any way be illegal. Republicans point to a Federal statute prohibiting any promises of "employment" as a "reward for any political activity."
But Painter says applying this to the Sestak situation is a big stretch. He argued that the sort of "political activity" referred to in the statute concerns political activity you might do for someone else, not actions you might take on your own behalf, such as dropping out of a race.
For instance, he said, this statute prevents things like the offer of a job to someone in exchange for their support for a particular candidate. "I cannot see how this statute can be reasonably applied to a candidate's own decision on whether to run in an election," Painter said.
"Based on the information disclosed from the White House, it's even more apparent that this is a non issue," Painter said. "No scandal. Time to move on."
Law professor Hasen: "I can't find a case" where the statute "has ever been applied in this way." Discussing 18 U.S.C. § 600, Hasen stated: "I went back and looked at this Section 600, the one that says about these job offers. That seems to be a statute that's really aimed at preventing patronage appointments. That is, you know, giving people who have done political favors for you jobs where they make money. I can't find a case where it's ever been applied in this way, and I think there are some good reasons why it probably shouldn't be. What we have here, really, is a political deal. It's a deal to say in order to strengthen the party, one of the two people competing should step aside. It's the kind of thing that happens all the time, and it's the kind of thing that probably is not what the statute was really designed to prevent."
Bush AG Mukasey: Based on White House and Sestak statements, offer "doesn't violate the statute." On the May 28 edition of Fox News' America Live, former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that it is "highly questionable there was a crime," adding that positions covered under 18 U.S.C. § 600 have to be "made possible, in whole or in part, by an act of Congress. In other words, it has to be a position that was created by an act of Congress or somehow partially created by an act of Congress. If it's not, then it doesn't violate the statute."
CREW's Sloan: Criminal allegations based on this interpretation of law are "ludicrous." In a May 27 blog post, NBC News' Mark Murray reported: "Melanie Sloan, the executive director of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that criminal allegations in the Sestak case are "ludicrous." She points out that there has never been a prosecution under the 1972 law cited by the Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans. "There's no definition of 'political activity' within the law," she said. "It's really not a very well-written statute."
18 U.S.C. § 201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses
The claim. Hannity has repeatedly claimed the White House attempted to "bribe" Sestak. On the May 26 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity said, "news of the White House's alleged attempt to bribe Congressman Joe Sestak into dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race has lingered in the public for four months now and the longer it does so the more bizarre it becomes." Later on the same program, Hannity stated of the offer, "I believe this is a bribe."
The statute. 18 U.S.C. § 201 reads in part:
(b) Whoever --
(1) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official or person who has been selected to be a public official, or offers or promises any public official or any person who has been selected to be a public official to give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent --
(A) to influence any official act; or
(B) to influence such public official or person who has been selected to be a public official to commit or aid in committing, or collude in, or allow, any fraud, or make opportunity for the commission of any fraud, on the United States; or
(C) to induce such public official or such person who has been selected to be a public official to do or omit to do any act in violation of the lawful duty of such official or person;
shall be fined under this title or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
The rebuttals: Legal experts have denied that the Sestak offer violated the federal bribery statute, including:
Painter: Job offer "is hardly a 'bribe.'" In a May 24 blog post, Painter wrote:
"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."
Sloan: "There's no bribery case here." Talking Points Memo's Zachary Roth reported in a May 25 post that Sloan had said of the Sestak offer, "There is no bribery case here... No statute has ever been used to prosecute anybody for bribery in circumstances like this." Likewise, in a May 28 MSNBC appearance, Sloan stated that "bribery is a tough case to prove. You need an official act in exchange for a thing of value. You just don't have that case here." She added: "Mr. Sestak didn't have any kind of official act to trade. Not running for Congress, not running for Senate, can't be an official act, which is the kind of thing he would have to exchange for that thing of value."