What Did Mr. Meek Stand to Inherit?

What do Pennsylvania and Florida have in common, aside from the fact that both are poised to send conservative, Tea-flavored Republicans to the Senate next week? Both states may be crime scenes, with the same suspect at work. And that suspect is none other than Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States. Clinton’s respect for the law is famously weak: the former president bears the distinction of having had his law license suspended for five years in Arkansas, and was later disbarred by the U.S. Supreme Court for perjury and suborning the perjury of others in the Lewinsky case.

This week we all learned that Bill Clinton and Kendrick Meek, the Democrats’ hapless nominee for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retiring Republican Mel Martinez, discussed the possibility of Meek dropping out of the race to make way for Charlie Crist. Crist is of course the current governor, a former Republican who hugged the Obama program when it appeared to be popular, and then dropped out of the GOP to run as a independent when Marco Rubio was about to shellac him in the GOP primary.

Before we get to the potential crime here, it’s worth pausing for a second to consider why Clinton is even involved in all of this. The former POTUS’ involvement suggests to me something different from his involvement in the Pennsylvania fiasco. In Pennsylvania, the Democrats were trying to protect a newly minted Democratic Senate seat. Florida’s is a GOP seat that, if Rubio wins, stays GOP.  Meek has never been a particularly strong candidate, and Crist has enough of his own issues to make him very questionable for anyone looking for any kind of loyal or even consistent behavior once in office. Clinton’s involvement in PA looked like nothing more than a quid pro quo for Arlen Specter’s party switch from GOP to Dem: his new party was rewarding him for his lack of loyalty to his former party.

But Clinton’s involvement in Florida suggests, to me, that the Democrats are wildly threatened by Rubio’s looming victory, to the point that they’ll try to get their nominee, a black candidate, out of the race in favor of Governor Orange, who is white, to prevent a Hispanic Republican from winning. Why would that be? I think it has a lot to do with what Rubio represents: A young, conservative, dynamic, Hispanic senator who may be around and in power for decades to come if he wins this race. This is what they don’t want to have to deal with.

I’m going to use the R-word … that video is Reaganesque.  Marco Rubio is Reaganesque. And he’s young.  The Democrats scuttled Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the bench by Bush 43 “because he is Latino” and never paid for that bit of bigotry, so why wouldn’t they figure they could get away with it again? The Democrats are banking their future power on locking up the Hispanic vote, and Rubio is a major threat to that.  So Clinton and Meek had this odd conversation, in which Meek says they merely discussed a rumor of him dropping out to make way for Crist, and Clinton and Crist say discussions took place over the course of about a week.

A week is a long time, especially in politics.  A lot can be discussed in a week.  Like job offers and other rewards for helping the party out.

Which brings us to the potential crime.  In the Pennsylvania case, Clinton famously offered Joe Sestak an unpaid position in exchange for dropping out of the Democratic primary.  That would’ve handed Specter the nomination, to go head to head against Republican nominee Pat Toomey (the man whose run scared Specter enough to jump parties in the first place, and who now has a narrow lead over Sestak).  As Hans von Spakovsky wrote at the time, that offer constituted a potential violation of USC 600, which:

prohibits the use of government-funded jobs or programs to advance partisan political interests.  The statute makes it unlawful for anyone to “promise any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit” to any person as a “consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party … in connection with any primary election.” As the OLC opinion says, § 600 “punishes those who promise federal employment or benefits as an enticement to or reward for future political activity, but does not prohibit rewards for past political activity.”  Future political activity would arguably include dropping out of a contested primary in order to benefit the White House-endorsed candidate (here, Sen. Specter).

And here, Rep. Meek.

So the question is, what if anything was discussed as a potential reward for Meek dropping out in favor of Crist?  What did Mr. Meek stand to inherit?  Clinton is most assuredly one of those few extremely influential political figures who can make the offer: All of X can be yours if you merely do what we want.  Help us keep Rubio out of office, and we’ll help you.

The question is, did he?  The Republican House should look into this, and the Sestak matter, in its next session.  If Bill Clinton is on an interstate political and possibly racially motivated crime spree, he needs to be stopped.