Allegations that the White House offered Joe Sestak a job in exchange for dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate race echo an earlier report of a job offer to candidate Andrew Romanoff in Colorado.
On Sept. 27, 2009, the Denver Post reported that the Obama administration offered Senate candidate Romanoff a position if he canceled plans to run for the Democratic nomination against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.
The paper said the job offer, which specified particular jobs, reportedly was delivered by Jim Messina, Obama’s deputy chief of staff. One position the Post cited was a job at USAID, the foreign aid agency.
Messina contacted Romanoff soon after news leaked in August 2009 that Romanoff, former Colorado House speaker, would make a primary run against Bennet.
Romanoff turned down the offer and announced his candidacy. Obama then endorsed Bennet, who had been appointed in January 2009 to fill the seat vacated when Ken Salazar became secretary of the Interior.
But Romanoff trounced Bennet at last weekend's Colorado Democratic assembly, winning the top line on the August primary ballot.
The White House denied that Romanoff had been offered a job.
“Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration,” said White House spokesman Adam Abrams.
Nevertheless, the Denver Post disclosures may have worked against Bennet.
“People in Colorado have an adverse reaction to the external forces coming down and telling them how to think,” said Colorado state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Romanoff supporter.
And the Post observed: “The timing of Messina’s latest intervention sparked particular concern — because of the appearance that the administration was trying to buy off a nettlesome opponent, to some; to others, because the timing made the effort appear so ham-handed.”
Earlier in 2009, Colorado Democrats recommended Romanoff for a position in the administration, spokesman Abrams acknowledged. But he said that, although “there were some initial conversations, no job was ever offered.”
Observers are taking a fresh look at the Romanoff story amid ongoing controversy over Rep. Sestak’s claim that he was offered a position in the Obama administration in exchange for dropping his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter.
Sestak said the offer came in July 2009, a month before he announced his candidacy.
Fellow Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate majority whip, has called on Sestak to say more about the job offer.
Republicans, meanwhile, are pressuring the White House to divulge details about the offer. Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has gone so far as to suggest a criminal probe in the matter.
Issa issued a statement saying: “For months, a United States congressman has stated that the White House offered him a job in exchange for not running in an election. We call this a bribe.
“Despite being asked numerous times, the White House has not refuted Congressman Sestak's allegations, but refuses to disclose who offered what and when. So this administration, that pledged to be a beacon of transparency and change, continues to conceal from the American people the truth about what exactly was said and offered.
“Until we get direct answers, this White House doesn't have a leg to stand on when they talk about openness and change.”
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