Sestak may face ethics probe over claims of White House job offer 

A top House Republican may file an ethics complaint against Rep. Joe Sestak if he refuses to give more information about the Obama administration's alleged effort to get him to quit Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary in exchange for a job.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said his panel is obligated to investigate the claims because they involve three felonies, including offering a bribe and interfering with an election.

"If Congressman Sestak will not tell us, then to be honest the only choice we have is to deal with this from a standpoint of congressional integrity," Issa told The Washington Examiner. "Under our ethics rules, either Congressman Sestak is lying, which would be an ethical violation, or he is covering up three felonies by members of the administration, which of course would be an ethical violation."

In an interview with The Examiner, Sestak said he rejected the job offer by the Obama administration because he didn't feel it would benefit Pennsylvania's working families.

"Washington, D.C., seems to thrive on deal making," Sestak said. "And in the military, I learned to make decisions based upon the facts, not politics, and that is how I ran my campaign."

Sestak declined to elaborate on the job offer, referring to his original interview with Pennsylvania's KYW radio reporter Larry Kane, who asked Sestak in February, "Were you ever offered a federal job to get out of this race?"

Sestak replied "yes," and later added, "Let me just say that both here in Pennsylvania, and down there [Washington], I was called quite a few times. And all I said is, 'Look, I felt when a deal is made that it was hurting the democratic process.' "

Sestak told The Examiner, "I was asked a question, I answered it. And all I know is I'm focused on one thing, Pennsylvania working families and accountability for what I say I'm going to do."

Sestak said he holds no grudge against Obama, who he said was the first to call on election night and offer to help him in the fall campaign.

Issa, meanwhile, has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to name a special prosecutor to look into Sestak's job offer claim, though Holder is not obligated to do so.

The White House has been vague, with press secretary Robert Gibbs on Thursday refusing to answer questions about the matter. Last month, Gibbs told reporters "whatever conversations have been had [between the White House and Sestak] are not problematic."

Issa disagrees and is even considering the rare move of filing a complaint with the House ethics committee, which would trigger an immediate investigation. Lawmakers almost never file complaints against each other, and Issa seemed more comfortable with the idea of a watchdog group filing a complaint with the independent noncongressional ethics board that helps police the House but has no power to punish offenders.

When pressed on whether he would be willing to demand an official probe by the House ethics panel, Issa responded, "I want Joe to do the right thing on his own, but I'm not ruling it out."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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Susan Ferrechio

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