White House, Sestak Confirm Clinton’s Role In “Job Offer”
The White House released it’s response to the questions that have arisen regarding the allegations of a job offer made to Congressman Joe Sestak during his primary run against Arlen Specter:
At the urging of the Obama White House, former President Bill Clinton asked Rep. Joe Sestak whether he would abandon his plans to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary if given an unpaid, advisory position, according to a White House counsel report issued Friday morning.
Clinton made the inquiries on behalf of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel last summer, as Sestak began his challenge of Specter, a former Republican who had switched parties, White House Counsel Bob Bauer wrote. Obama publicly backed Specter’s reelection bid over Sestak, who remained in the primary and defeated the veteran senator this month.
Bauer concluded that nothing improper had taken place and that “allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law.” Contrary to allegations by many conservative pundits, he found that Sestak had not been offered the position of secretary of the Navy. Bauer concluded that discussions about “alternatives” to a Senate campaign by Sestak were proper.
“The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the Congressman vacating his seat in the House,” Bauer wrote. “There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations — both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals — discussed alternative paths to service. . . . Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.”
You can read the memo for yourself here.
Congressman Sestak confirmed the White House account in his statement:
“Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton. During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background.
He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.
“There are many important challenges facing Pennsylvania and the rest of the country. I intend to remain focused on those issues and continue my fight on behalf of working families.”
As I noted in my post this morning, this version of events should put an end to any questions of illegality. Of course, that doesn’t mean the political circus will end, if the reaction from Congressman Darrell Issa is any indication:
After more than ten weeks of outstanding questions, the White House has offered a version of events that has important differences from what Congressman Sestak has been saying for months — that he was offered a ‘job’ by ‘someone in the White House’ in exchange for leaving the Pennsylvania Senate race.
I’m very concerned that in the rush to put together this report, the White House has done everything but explain its own actions and has instead worked to craft a story behind closed doors and coordinate with those involved. The White House has admitted today to coordinating an arrangement that would represent an illegal quid-pro-quo as federal law prohibits directly or indirectly offering any position or appointment, paid or unpaid, in exchange for favors connected with an election.
President Clinton and Congressman Sestak now need to answer questions about what the White House has released today — that at the behest of the White House Chief of staff, they dispatched a former President to get Joe Sestak out of the Pennsylvania Senate Primary.
As Chris Cillizza notes, the White House could have cut all of this off at the pass had they been more forthright in answering the questions that arose after Sestak made claims that he had been offered a “job” if he dropped out of the race against Specter. Now, Issa and other Republicans will spend their time concentrating on the alleged, though minor, differences between the accounts released today and the vague off-hand comments made by Sestak during the campaign.
Legally there’s nothing here worth paying attention to. Politically, I’m sure this is an issue that some Republicans will go back to for the next several months.