Romanoff, White House aide admit jobs talk
Did Jim Messina break the law by offering federal posts to Colorado Senate aspirant Andrew Romanoff?
A senior aide to President Barack Obama approached former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff with the possibility of three federal posts as an alternative to his primary challenge to Beltway-supported Senator Michael Bennet.
Romanoff rebuffed the aide’s suggestions to join the administration. In a statement acknowledging the job talk, Romanoff appended an email from White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina proposing three jobs: two senior posts at the U.S. Agency for International Development and a third at at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
“In September 2009, shortly after the news media first reported my plans to run for the Senate, I received a call from Jim Messina, the President’s deputy chief of staff,” his statement said. “Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet. I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run.”
While the White House and Romanoff maintain no formal job offer was made, it is apparent the situation in Colorado is far more unseemly than what unfolded in Pennsylvania, where former President Bill Clinton was dispatched an an unofficial envoy to dissuade Representative Joe Sestak from pursing a primary challenge against White House-endorsed Senator Arlen Specter. At present moment, it is unclear the Pennsylvania drama violated any federal law; Colorado, however, is an entirely different, seedy matter, whereby a senior White House official sought to exert influence in an election, presumably at the behest of the president, by means of illegal horse-trading.
On the heels of Romanoff’s admission, the White House press shop, who had come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to offer more details on what possible jobs may have been offered to Sestak, insisted at no point in Messina’s two-part conversation did the senior staffer offer a position to Mr. Romanoff.
“Mr. Romanoff was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the Administration,” reads a statement from White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton. “There were some initial conversations with him but no job was ever offered.”
After demurring on the first abject offer, Romanoff said he received a second, more specific message–this time an email–from Messina. The email included detailed, one-page job descriptions of available posts for which White House brass presumably had in mind for Romanoff – should he forgo his campaign.
The jobs were: “Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin American and Carribean, USAID;” “Director, Office of Democracy and Governance, USAID;” “Director, U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).”
White House legal counsel say administration officials did not act improperly in the Sestak matter. But today’s revelation of White House electioneering manipulation is far more difficult to sweep under the rug.
Federal statutes prohibit the exploitation of government-funded positions, appointments or contracts to advance partisan interests. 18 U.S.C. § 600 reads in full: “Whoever, directly or indirectly, promises any employment, position, compensation, contract, appointment, or other benefit, provided for or made possible in whole or 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.”
It’s become evident that President Barack Obama’s blueprint to revive the nation’s ailing economy and job market is to save or create a federal job for every inconvenient Democratic primary challenger.