White House Admits To Job Offer To Another Senate Challenger
The White House admitted early today that it had offered Andrew Romanoff, who is running a primary challenger to Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, options of Executive Branch employment instead of running for office:
The White House acknowledged Thursday that it made overtures to Colorado U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff about a possible administration job as it was trying to steer him away from a primary challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.
The statement by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs came the day after Romanoff revealed that White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina offered to consider Romanoff for three posts as an alternative to his Senate campaign.
Gibbs also revealed something Romanoff left out of his own statement however, that he had applied for a position at USAID during the presidential transition.
In a statement released at 6:25 a.m., Gibbs said Messina did reach out to Romanoff to see if it would be possible to keep him out of a primary challenge to Bennet, who had the White House’s backing.
“Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition,” Gibbs said. “He filed this application through the Transition on-line process. After the new administration took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel,” Gibbs said.
“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. Months earlier, the President had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.”
Gibbs continued, explaining that Romanoff rebuffed the overture: “Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the Administration, and that ended the discussion. As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.”
Romanoff described his interactions with Messina in similar terms Wednesday evening, but did not disclose that he had applied for an administration job. He also released an e-mail from Messina describing the jobs of deputy USAID administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, director of USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance and director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Much like the Sestak offer, it’s hard to see how this qualified as anything even close to being illegal, especially since it’s clear that the contact between the White House and the candidate in question took place before he officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. The fact that actions like this are perfectly legal, though, doesn’t mean it doesn’t look sleazy, and in a political year when voters are clearly fed up with Washington business-as-usual, it’s not at all helpful for the Obama Administration to be associated with political tactics that are more reminiscent of the Daley machine than 2008’s “hope and change.”