In Pennsylvania, the administration has admitted it enlisted no less a power player than Bill Clinton to ask Rep. Joe Sestak to stop his bid against Obama ally Sen. Arlen Specter. Clinton suggested Sestak remain in the House and accept an influential, but non-paying, role on an advisory panel. (Sestak has since ousted Specter.)
The Denver Post last September quoted unnamed sources that said Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, contacted former state House Speaker Romanoff, who hadn’t yet announced his candidacy, with specific suggestions for Washington jobs in exchange for his staying out of the race against appointed Sen. Michael Bennet.
The White House denied any such offer, but sources told The Post’s Michael Riley: “Romanoff turned down the overture, which included mention of a job at USAID, the foreign aid agency.”
Obama endorsed Bennet the day after Romanoff formally announced he was in the race.
We read Riley’s story with particular interest. Only days before it ran, after hearing whispers of a Romanoff job offer, we asked the former House speaker directly whether he had been offered a job by the White House to drop out of the race.
He told us unequivocally that he had not been offered a position.
The matter dropped off the political radar until Sestak admitted on the campaign trail that he was offered some sort of job.
Romanoff now refuses to answer questions about whether he was, in fact, offered a job. In fact, Romanoff refuses even to offer an explanation for why he won’t answer the question. And yet, like Obama, Romanoff’s campaign theme has been to run against the Washington way of doing things.
We don’t know what to make of all the secrecy. Without an explanation, voters are left to wonder who to believe. And if Obama doesn’t mind the position in which that places Romanoff, he ought to care about where it places him.
Permit me to offer the cynical assessment: Yes, the Obama administration sees executive-branch staff positions as a pile of gift cards to be used to buy off inconvenient Democratic primary challengers. Yes, this is precisely the sort of thing that bribery laws are supposed to prevent. And yes, everyone in the Obama administration knows there will be no serious consequence for breaking this law.