Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Joe Sestak job offer? White House says it did nothing wrong.

The GOP isn't buying the White House assertion that it offered Rep. Joe Sestak only an unpaid position on an advisory board if he'd drop his effort to unseat Pennsylvania's Sen. Arlen Specter.

By Staff writer / May 28, 2010

Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill Friday. The White House acknowledged that it had enlisted Bill Clinton to try to ease Representative Sestak out of Pennsylvania's Senate primary with the offer of an unpaid position on an advisory board.

Charles Dharapak/AP



After months of speculation, the White House has released an explanation of its effort to lure Rep. Joe Sestak (D) of Pennsylvania away from running for the US Senate.

Skip to next paragraph

The two-page memo from White House counsel Robert Bauer, issued Friday, states that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had enlisted former President Bill Clinton to approach Congressman Sestak last summer to discuss the possibility of unpaid service on a presidential advisory board, while retaining his seat in the House.

In his own statement, Sestak laid out the same scenario. “I said no,” he said of the advisory board offer.

The releases provide an embarrassing peek into White House political maneuverings, months after Sestak himself revealed in a Philadelphia TV interview that the White House had made him an offer designed to steer him away from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D) in the Democratic primary.

The White House cared about preventing a primary challenge against Senator Specter, because it had promised Specter full support for his 2010 reelection campaign when it persuaded him to jump from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in April 2009. Specter’s party switch gave the Democrats their 60th Senate seat – a filibuster-proof majority.

In the White House memo, Mr. Bauer stated that nothing improper had taken place, citing erroneous speculation that Sestak, a retired Navy admiral, had been offered the position of Secretary of the Navy.

“We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law,” Bauer wrote.

At issue in the flap is whether anyone in the Obama administration broke the law by interfering with a political campaign. A job offer to Sestak could constitute such interference. Sestak, in fact, stayed in the race, and beat Senator Specter in the May 18 primary.