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.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Hooray! Finally an explanation and confirmation. If only this would have been explained earlier we all would not have been guessing. Transparent indeed.

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    That smell. Is it Carp or Shad? Don’t know but it sure is fishy. Because Bauer (not Jack) determined there is no value in an unpaid advisory position which a sitting member of congress cannot hold, does not change the fact it was an attempt with a offer for a candidate not to run for office. Once again Doug, read the damn law. U.S.C. 18, sect 600. Look like they just implicated Bill Clinton in a felony. This will not be decided by some leftist lawyer blogging on the internet but by either by a grand jury or a Republican majority house. Mark my words, this Administartions ship has hit an ice burg. We will see how many Democrats go down with the ship. What will you bet Clinton changes his tune when he is confronted with prison? Once again read the law. It does not specify of what value the thing offered is. It only prohibits the offer. My kid wants to go to law school. Doug, where did you go so I can advise him not to attend there.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or in part by any Act of Congress, or any special consideration in obtaining any such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party in connection with any general or special election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

    There, I did the work for you. It is United States Code 18, Section 600. Read it and tell me how the law was not broken.

  4. There is no evidence in the information that has been made public that there was any quid pro quo, Without that, your argument has no legs.

    If things did happen as the WH and Sestak say then this was quite obviously NOT illegal

  5. Drew says:

    Doug –

    I think your characterization of this as a “political circus” is pollyannish and just as predjudicial as what you are commenting on.

    This issue simply was not handled in a forthright manner. And it now seams a bit too perfect in its public construction. Some of us weren’t born yesterday. Further, it borders on what the meaning of is, is.

    In my business, where trust is the most important asset we possess, the fact set here would have lost us the deal long ago. Its stinky.

  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Doug, the offer was against the law. They specifically named what the offer was. An advisory position. That is the offer. What they wanted in return is for Sestak not to run in the primary. What exactly would you call that? Nice that they all had time to coordinate the response Sestak not being specific until the job was defined by the White House is just fine. Doug, I have some, what many would call worthless paper for sale at $10 per sheet. I am willing to part with 500 sheets of it to you for only $40,000.00. I will accept a cashiers check. Send me the check and I will ship the ream of paper to you already packaged. It will be very valuable some day. I have it on good authority of White House counsel.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Doug, the offer was against the law.

    Why don’t you go to Washington and make a citizen’s arrest…