Obama to Reward Favorgate Figure with Top Campaign Post

Politico has a piece today on preparations President Obama and his inner circle are making for his reelection campaign, which the article states is set to launch early next year.  Mike Allen reports that the campaign is likely to be run out of Chicago and staffed by a cadre of veterans from Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Of particular interest given the news of the week is the role Allen reports for White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina.

President Barack Obama’s top advisers are quietly laying the groundwork for the 2012 reelection campaign, which is likely to be run out of Chicago and managed by White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions.  […]

Advisers said Messina is valued for his relationships on Capitol Hill…

“Jim can bring the bare knuckles, and he can make sure members are advocating for the president,” a colleague said.

Bare knuckles, and felonious offers of plum Administration jobs, too.  Messina is the White House official who allegedly offered Democrat Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff a job in the Department of the Interior to drop his primary challenge of Sen. Michael Bennett in Colorado.  Offering a federal job in exchange for a political favor is a violation of federal law.

Romanoff refused, as did Rep. Joe Sestak, who just last week let slip that he too was offered a high-ranking Administration job – speculation is it was Secretary of the Navy – to bow out of his primary challenge of Sen. Arlen Specter.

So far, the major media has largely ignored the Obama Administration’s effort to buy off its favored candidates’ political opponents.  But the realization is growing that this is a major story going unreported.  Jake Tapper and Major Garrett asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for comment on the allegations at yesterday’s press briefing.  Gibbs ducked the questions, pleading ignorance – not exactly a stretch on any subject.  But he didn’t deny the allegations specifically.

“I was traveling for a couple of days, as you know.  I have seen some stuff on that, but I have not looked into this.”

Sestak is not saying who at the White House made the illicit job offer to him, but given his position as Rahm Emanuel’s deputy, and his valuable contacts in Congress, Messina is a likely suspect.  Now the Administration is making plans to have this alleged federal lawbreaker run the president’s reelection campaign.

Perhaps now Republicans will start asking very public, very pointed questions about the offers to Sestak and Romanoff, Messina’s role, and the potential involvement of White House officials right up to and including President Obama himself.  This scandal in waiting has the makings of an electoral game changer bigger than the Jack Abramoff affair and the Mark Foley fiasco, which Democrats wasted no time in using against just about every candidate with a R after his name in 2006.

Republicans should call for a Special Prosecutor to investigate Sestak’s and Romanoff’s claims.  They should be asking what Obama knew and when he knew it, and demand e-mails, phone logs, and visitor records of top Administration officials.  And they should be seeking subpoenas for Messina, Romanoff, Emanuel, and Axelrod in the relevant House and Senate committees.  When Democrats and the Administration refuse these calls for investigation, Republicans should use that against them in the campaign.  That’s what the Democrats would do given similar allegations against a Republican administration, and turnabout is fair play.

At the very least they should be raising questions about why low-level staffers in the Administration are empowered to hand out federal jobs as favors for doing the president’s bidding.  Who is minding the store?

Politico says that the administration has not yet centered on a theme for Obama’s reelection.  But the Messina scandal makes one thing clear:  they won’t be able to run on bringing a new kind of politics to Washington.  Not with an alleged federal lawbreaker running the campaign.