Rep. Issa Compares Romanoff Offer To The Manhattan Project

June 03, 2010 5:34 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) appeared on Fox News this afternoon to discuss the latest drummed-up allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the White House.  During the interview, Issa compared reports that the administration tried to dissuade Andrew Romanoff from running for the Senate by offering him a job to the Manhattan Project -- the secret operation to develop the atomic bomb -- among other shady activities:

Like Issa, RNC Chairman Michael Steele is eager to turn the purported offer into a major controversy.  But as Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute explained last week (addressing similar circumstances involving Pennsylvania Senate candidate Joe Sestak, which led Republicans to call for the appointment of a special prosecutor), these accusations are woefully misguided:   

[T]o any veteran of the political process, such offers are nearly routine across every administration. If what the Obama administration did was impeachable, then Rep. Issa might want to consider retroactive impeachment action against Ronald Reagan, whose White House directly suggested to S.I. Hayakawa that he would get an administration position if he would stay out of the Republican primary for Senate in California; or call for an investigation and special prosecutor of the Bush White House for discussing a Cabinet post with Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska to clear the field for their preferred Republican candidate Mike Johanns in 2006. At the same time, Issa might want to call for expulsion of his Senate colleague Judd Gregg, who insisted before he accepted the post of Commerce Secretary in the Obama administration that there be a guarantee that his successor, appointed by a Democratic governor, be a Republican.

As President George H.W. Bush's former political director said, "Tell me a White House that didn't do this, back to George Washington." And prominent ethics lawyers reject the idea that such offers constitute bribery.     

What's more, it turns out that Romanoff actually applied for a job in the administration.  He eventually signaled his intent to run, the White House followed up to see if he was still interested, and Romanoff declined.  Issa was even quoted earlier calling the offer "politics as usual."  That may look bad to some, but it's still not a scandal.