The White House solicited former President Bill Clinton’s help to persuade Rep. Joe Sestak to leave the Senate Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania against the administration’s favored candidate, long-term Sen. Arlen Spector.
Last summer, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked former President Bill Clinton to talk to Sestak about appointment to a prestigious but unpaid presidential advisory board, White House counsel Bob Bauer revealed in a report out today.
Republicans and some Democrats questioned the administration over a possible quid pro quo after Sestak publicly announced he was offered a high-ranking position in the White House if he agreed not to challenge Specter.
Until today, the White House refused to answer questions on the subject, even though Sestak repeatedly talked about it.
In an attempt to quiet the controversy and refute allegations of improper conduct, the White House released the Bauer report, claiming an internal investigation revealed nothing improper took place and “that the allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and a lack of basis in the law.”
Clinton agreed to offer Sestak a seat on a presidential advisory board or another executive board. The purpose of the offer was to “avert a divisive primary fight,” the report said — in other words, to get Sestak out of the race.
In the report, Bauer argued Rahm Emanuel only worked through the former president and nobody in the administration directly discussed the offer with Sestak.
President Obama was not involved in the discussions on how to encourage Sestak to get out of the race and was not aware of Bill Clinton’s role or of the job offer, a senior White House official told ABC News.
The White House held back on releasing the information because, “neither Sestak nor Specter wanted this to be an issue in the campaign,” the official added.
After Sestak won the nomination, Republicans renewed their questions of the administration, with some calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. The Justice Department denied those requests.
In the report, Bauer argued that previous Democratic and Republican administrations were “motivated by the same goals.”
Now, the White says the matter is over and there is no need for the Justice Department to investigate.
Sestak refused the offer, stayed in the race and ultimately won the primary, ending Spector’s long career in the Senate.
“I wouldn’t have taken any job,” Sestak told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl two weeks ago of the White House offer. “I didn’t like the deal because I didn’t feel it was helpful to Pennsylvanian families.”