The Joe Sestak "bribe scandal"

Did the White House try to bribe Joe Sestak? Or are Republicans just looking for something to investigate?

Published May 24, 2010 3:30PM (EDT)

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) speaks on May 18.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) speaks on May 18.

Now that Joe Sestak is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, it is time to learn about the bizarre pseudo-scandal surrounding him that has consumed California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa.

Back in February, Sestak off-handedly mentioned that, last July, he was offered a job by the White House if he would agree not to run against Arlen Specter in the Democratic Senate primary. Darrell Issa would like to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate this serious "bribe."

The RNC is making the supposed bribe the subject of press releases, Sestak and Robert Gibbs both fielded questions about it on the Sunday morning shows, and their non-answers made the papers today. In other words, this is going to be an issue for a while. Whether it goes away depends primarily on whether the Republicans think they can get anyone outside of Fox Nation interested in it. Which may be a problem, because the story is pretty thin:

  • The White House says this never even happened.
  • The White House might be right, because seriously offering Sestak an administration job makes no real sense.
  • Sestak has never elaborated on his story, or said what job he was "offered." Which doesn't make it sound very compelling.
  • Most importantly, this is politics. People are kinda-sorta offered things if they agree to do or not do things that the party or the White House wants them to do or not do every day.

This is more of a sneak preview of what a Republican-led House would busy itself with, actually. Constant, endless investigations into whatever might make headlines. They did it to Clinton, they're sure they can do it again.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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2010 Elections Arlen Specter Vs. Joe Sestak Joe Sestak D-pa.