Washington is abuzz today on the news
that the White House dangled a job offer in front of another Democratic Congressional candidate to convince them to drop out of a primary race.
Last night, former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff issued a statement revealing that last fall, after he launched his campaign for the Senate, President Obama's deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, called him to say that the White House would be supporting incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.
Furthermore, Messina volunteered "three positions that might be available" to Romanoff were he to drop out of the race, although none were guaranteed.
This comes days after the White House was forced to respond to allegations by Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak that Bill Clinton called him up to voice a similar proposition on behalf of the White House to protect incumbent Democrat Arlen Specter, who Sestak soundly beat in the primary election
two weeks ago.
Now the Obama Administration is hard on the defensive, attempting to fend-off what some see as a pattern of ethical dubiousness at best, and, at worst, endemic bribery, corruption or potential criminal violations inviting comparisons to "Watergate
." Just how similar are the Sestak and Romanoff situations? Surge Desk breaks it down:
Joseph A. Sestak, Jr.: Navy veteran and Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania. Defeated Arlen Specter 54 percent to 46 percent
in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary. Facing Republican Pat Toomey in November.
Harlan Andrew Romanoff: Former teacher and consultant became the second youngest Speaker of the House in Colorado History. Challenging Bennet in an August primary, then, if successful, Republican Jane Norton in November. According to Ramussen
pre-polling, Norton leads Bennet 48% to 41%, and Romanoff 46% to 41%.
The Revealing Statements
Sestak on the Larry Kane Show, February 18, as recounted
by Kane, a Philadelphia TV personality:
I asked Congressman Joe Sestak: "Is it true that you were offered a high ranking job in the administration in a bid to get you to drop out of the primary against Arlen Specter?"
Sestak looked a little surprised by the question. He said, "Yes."
I asked him if the job was Navy Secretary. He said, "I can't comment on that." In the next few seconds, he admitted that it was a "high up' job, that it came from the White House, and that he didn't accept the offering.
Romanoff via press release
on June 2:
Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina's assistance in obtaining one.
Former President Bill Clinton
: Sestak says Clinton called him last summer on behalf of the White House, but apparently backed down when Sestak said he would stay in the race. Clinton is reputed
to have responded: "I knew you'd say that."
Jim Messina, White House Deputy Chief of Staff: Romanoff says Messina called and emailed in September of 2009, "shortly after the news media first reported my plans to run for the Senate." Romanoff says that he left Messina a voice mail declining the offers and has not heard from Messina since.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, a former senior advisor to President Clinton turned Illinois Congressman who has courted controversy
throughout his political career for his brusque pragmatism and uncompromising approach.
The Alleged "Bribes"
Romanoff says his conversation with Messina involved three different paid positions
: Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Caribbean for USAID, Director of Office of Democracy and Governance at USAID and director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. During the Obama transition, he had applied for a job with USAID in 2008, to no avail.
Sestak has remained tight-lipped on the specific position he was offered, but popular speculation has coalesced on Secretary of the Navy, a paid position, or an unpaid post on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (a job the White House would learn he was not eligible for, as a member of Congress)
The Official White House Responses
To Sestak controversy on May 28
Our office has reviewed those discussions and claims made about them, focusing in particular on the suggestion that government positions may have been improperly offered to the Congressman to dissuade him from pursuing a Senate candidacy. We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law.
To Romanoff controversy on June 3
Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition...Jim Messina called and emailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the US Senate...As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.