Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) submitted a formal referral for two top White House officials to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for allegedly having violated a law prohibiting federal officials from using official resources for political purposes.
Issa, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, submitted a complaint to the OSC accusing White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his deputy, Jim Messina, of using official resources to help discourage two Democratic primary candidates from waging challenges to incumbents.
The California Republican has led an effort to investigate the administration's role in discouraging Rep. Joe Sestak from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary for Senate by way of allegedly offered him a position. Issa has also picked up on reports that the White House tried to lure Democratic attorney Andrew Romanoff out of a challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in Colorado with the offer of potential jobs.
Emanuel, Issa wrote, "was leveraging the power and access of his official position" in trying to affect the races.
The administration has acknowledged activities in the races — in Pennsylvania by sending former President Bill Clinton to talk to Sestak, and in Colorado by e-mail exchanges between Messina and Romanoff.
But the White House has maintained that no formal offers of a job were ever made to either candidate, and a memo prepared by White House Counsel Bob Bauer released last month denies any wrongdoing in the races.
"A final determination of whether or not Mr. Emanuel's actions violated the Hatch Act is rightfully made by OSC investigators following a thorough review, not by the Office of the White House Counsel," Issa said.
The appeal to OSC follows the Justice Department's rejection of Issa's call for a special prosecutor into the matter. The OSC is an independent agency that has the power to investigate and prosecute violations of the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act and the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act bars federal employees from engaging in partisan activities.