Republicans are jumping on an Associated Press report that "administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forgo a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet" as the latest piece of evidence that the Obama administration has engaged in unseemly and possible illegal manipulation of the political process.
The AP report, which is sourced to unnamed administration officials, comes less than a week after the White House, under pressure from Republicans and the press corps,to talk to Rep. Joe Sestak about dropping out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary against Sen. Arlen Specter and taking an advisory job in the executive branch.
"Is anyone really surprised that the White House's efforts to manipulate elections wasn't isolated to just Joe Sestak and Pennsylvania?," House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement. "The Obama Administration has become the very establishment they once spoke of with such contempt."
The AP story notes that officials said no formal job offer was ever made to Romanoff, presumably keeping the White House on the right side of the law. The officials declined to specify what positions might be available to Romanoff if he gave up his challenge against Bennet in the Colorado Democratic Senate primary. (Romanoff stayed in the race.)
Before the AP story broke, Issa, who has been pushing hard on the Sestak matter for months, released a letter he sent to White House Counsel Robert Bauer asking Bauer to provide "all records and documents created by or produced to the Office of the White House Counsel in the course of the investigation of the Sestak matter."
Along with House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Issa wrote that Americans could only have "confidence in the legitimacy of the conclusions drawn" by the White House in the Sestak case if they have access to all related documents.
The White House said Friday that it had not acted improperly in the Sestak matter, with Bauer writing that "allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law." Bauer's memo on the matter concluded that Mr. Clinton's raising of an uncompensated position with Sestak reflected standard political practice.
"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 for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office," he wrote. "Such discussions are full consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements."
Sestak said he quickly dismissed Mr. Clinton's suggestion and he ultimately triumphed in the Pennsylvania primary.
Romanoff has not addressed the nature of any conversations he had with the administration. He is seeking the seat now held by Bennet, who was appointed by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to replace Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. The primary will be held on August 10th.