Some Democrats on Capitol Hill were caught off guard by the White House announcement on Friday that placed former President Bill Clinton and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at the center of the Rep. Joe Sestak job bribery scandal.
"We expected at the end of the day that somehow Joe Biden would be involved," says one Democrat leadership source. "He was much more involved in the Specter recruitment and had more invested in getting Specter what he wanted."
Indeed, Specter and several senior advisers, according to Democrat Senate sources, went several times to Biden and his staff complaining about Sestak and the fact that the field had not been cleared for Specter as the "new Democrat" had hoped. Specter advisers say that their candidate spoke several times with frustration to Biden after the switch about Sestak's candidacy.
While Specter was not promised a clear field, Democrats did work to accomplish just that. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell acolyte and former National Constitution Center head Joe Torsella was the only Democrat in the primary at the time of Specter's switch in late April 2009, and Rendell persuaded him to drop out rather quickly from the race. After that, Rendell made it known that he was working behind the scenes to cut off Sestak's in-state fundraising resources from major donors to the party.
"Sestak and the White House are now saying that the conversation was brief and Sestak is a bit unclear on the offer now," says one Republican Senate leadership aide. "We think there is more to this than what is out there, and the White House explanation, if you look at it, simply doesn't make sense. The fact that the vice president, who usually has something to say about anything, is not saying a word on all of this is very interesting to a number of his former colleagues up here in the Senate."
Two major problems: First and foremost, numerous legal experts have rejected the allegation that the Sestak incident amounts to "bribery." Several of the experts throwing cold water on the supposed "scandal" have been prominent Republicans, including Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter, who said there is "[n]o scandal. Time to move on."
The second major problem should serve as caution to Fox News and other conservative outlets before they run with the allegations. The Prowler's reporting here once again relies on anonymous sources. Their past use of dubious anonymous sources has led conservatives like the National Review's Jim Geraghty and Hot Air's Allahpundit to question the site's credibility.
Indeed, the Prowler burned Fox News and several other conservative outlets in April after they published a column claiming the Department of Health and Human Services withheld an unfavorable report on health care reform until after the health care vote. The allegations were decisively debunked by Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services' chief actuary Richard Foster, who called out the Prowler for "reporting factually incorrect information."
After the HHS story started falling apart, the Prowler doubled down by blatantly lying about their original reporting.
In light of all that, this latest Prowler report should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.