In a memo written by White House Counsel Robert Bauer, the Obama administration broke its silence today on whether someone offered a job to U.S. Senate candidate Joe Sestak to keep him from running against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Bauer writes in the two-page memo that former President Bill Clinton, acting at the request of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, discussed the possibility of an unpaid advisory job with Sestak. Under the proposal described by Bauer, Sestak, a Democratic congressman, would have run for reelection and not challenged Specter, but Sestak declined.
Before joining the White House in December, Bauer was the longtime head of the election law practice at Perkins Coie, and his memo argues that a president and his staff have legitimate interests as the leaders of his political party.
“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,” Bauer writes. “Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.”
Before today, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Senior Adviser David Axelrod had been speaking for the White House on questions about the job offer, though they had been declining to give details. Click here (PDF) for a copy of Bauer’s two-page memo.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has called for a Justice Department special prosecutor to investigate the matter, said in a statement that Clinton and Sestak still have questions to answer.
“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,” Issa said.