I Sense A Trend

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 3, 2010

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There appears to be a lot of this going around:

The Obama administration dangled the possibility of a government job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forgo a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, officials said Wednesday, just days after the White House admitted orchestrating a job offer in the Pennsylvania Senate race.

These officials declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.

“Mr. Romanoff was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the administration,” White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. “There were some initial conversations with him but no job was ever offered.”

The new revelation of a possible political trade again called into question President Barack Obama’s repeated promises to run an open government that was above back room deals.

The Colorado episode follows a similar controversy in Pennsylvania. An embarrassed White House admitted last Friday that it turned to former President Bill Clinton last year to approach Rep. Joe Sestak about backing out of the primary in favor of an unpaid position on a federal advisory board.

Sestak declined the offer and defeated Sen. Arlen Specter late last month for the Democratic nomination after disclosing the job discussions and highlighting it as evidence of his antiestablishment political credentials. He said last week he rejected Clinton’s feeler in less than a minute.

Have I discussed how an investigation may be in order? Especially when one considers the following passage, which only adds to the mystery:

Unlike Sestak, Romanoff has ducked questions on the subject, and it was not clear how long his discussions with administration officials lasted. Also unlike Sestak, Romanoff was out of office and looking for his next act after being forced from his job because of term limits.

Romanoff had sought appointment to the Senate seat that eventually went to Bennet, publicly griped he had been passed over and then discussed possible appointment possibilities inside the administration, one of the officials said.

After being passed over for the Senate appointment, the out-of-power Romanoff made little secret of shopping for a political job. Romanoff also applied to be Colorado secretary of state, a job that came open when Republican Mike Coffman was elected to Congress. Gov. Bill Ritter again appointed a replacement, and again passed over Romanoff.

Next, according to several Colorado Democrats speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal negotiations, Romanoff also approached Ritter about being Ritter’s running mate for Ritter’s re-election bid. It was only after that attempt failed, the Colorado Democrats said, that Romanoff joined the Senate contest.

Romanoff still wasn’t settled on the Senate race. When Ritter announced in January that he wouldn’t seek a second term after all, Romanoff publicly talked about leaving the Senate race to seek the governor’s office, though he ended up staying in the Senate contest.

And more:

U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff said publicly for the first time Wednesday that a White House deputy discussed three specific jobs that “might be available” if Romanoff dropped a primary challenge to a fellow Democrat, Sen. Michael Bennet.

Romanoff, responding to increased pressure from national media and Republicans attacking the Obama White House, released an e-mail sent to him Sept. 11, 2009, by administration deputy chief of staff Jim Messina describing two possible jobs with the U.S. Agency for International Development, affiliated with the State Department, and one with the U.S. Trade Development Agency.

In a phone call last September, just before Romanoff publicly announced a challenge for Bennet’s seat, Messina “suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina’s assistance in obtaining one,” Romanoff’s statement said.

After getting the e-mail with the job descriptions, Romanoff said, “I left him a voice mail informing him that I would not change course. I have not spoken with Mr. Messina, nor have I discussed this matter with anyone else in the White House, since then.”

All of this certainly seems specific enough to warrant further inquiry; I don’t know how much more smoke is needed to conclude that perhaps there is a fire.

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