June 3rd, 2010
11:00 AM ET
4 years ago

Romanoff details White House contact over possible job

The White House is backing Sen. Bennett in the Colorado Democratic primary.
The White House is backing Sen. Bennett in the Colorado Democratic primary.

Washington (CNN) – A Colorado Senate candidate, who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary, said Wednesday that a senior White House aide suggested last year that three administration jobs might be open to him if he abandoned plans to run against Bennet. But the candidate, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, also noted that he was never offered a position by the White House.

"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. Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet. I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run," Romanoff said in a statement released early Wednesday evening. "Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina's assistance in obtaining one."

Romanoff said later that day he received an email from Messina with descriptions of three positions. Romanoff includes an attachment of what he says is the email from Messina, which is dated Friday, September 11, 2009. The three positions listed in the email are Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Caribbean, USAID, Director of the Office of Democracy and Governance, USAID, and Director of the US Trade and Development Agency, USTDA.

(Read the e-mail here)

Romanoff said he left Messina a voicemail informing him "that I would not change course," and added "I have not spoken with Mr. Messina, nor have I discussed this matter with anyone else in the White House, since then."

Five days later, Romanoff formally launched his Senate bid.

The White House said in a statement Thursday that Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the presidential transition, applying online. After Obama took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel, the statement said.

"Messina called and e-mailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID or if, as had been reported, he was running for the U.S. Senate," said the statement from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

"Months earlier, the president had endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters."

Romanoff told Messina he was committed to running for the Senate and was no longer interested in working for the Obama administration, "and that ended the discussion," the White House said. "As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job."

The Denver Post first reported the story last September. At the time, the newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying that Messina contacted Romanoff. In his statement Wednesday, Romanoff said he has declined comment until now "because I did not want - and do not want - to politicize this matter."

Bennet was plucked out of political obscurity early last year when Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter named him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down to serve as Interior Secretary in the Obama Administration.

To reach this year's general election, Bennet first needs to defeat Romanoff in Colorado's August 10 Democratic primary. Bennet has the backing of the White House and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He has also out paced Romanoff when it comes to fundraising, thanks in part to an appearance by President Obama at a Bennet fundraiser in Colorado in February.

But Romanoff topped Bennett at party precinct caucuses earlier this year, which gave him a bit of a boost.

The developments come on the same day that House Republicans demanded the White House turn over internal documents related to its failed effort last year to try and persuade Rep. Joe Sestak to forgo a primary challenge to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, in exchange for a government job.

The relevant laws in question include 18 U.S.C. § 600 (Promise of employment or other benefit for political activity), 18 U.S.C. § 595 (Interference by administrative employees of Federal, State, or Territorial Governments) and the Hatch Act (An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities)

Sestak ended up defeating Specter in Pennsylvania's May 18 primary.

Last Friday, White House Counsel Bob Bauer released a memorandum revealing that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton to offer to Sestak an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board. But Bauer concluded there was no wrong doing by the White House, saying that "allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law."

In an editorial Wednesday, the Denver Post urged the White House to "clear the air on the Romanoff deal."

– CNN's Ed Henry and Dana Bash contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2010 • Andrew Romanoff • Colorado • Michael Bennet • Obama administration
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. George

    Romanoff is such a scumbag. I was at the presidential caucus here in Denver and this guy circulated all over the room, handing out business cards and promoting himself, when all of us were there to pick a candidate for president. He cares about nothing but his own political ambition and if Colorado chooses him over Sen. Bennett, they deserve the half assed job that I know he'll do. He's dirt.

    June 2, 2010 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  2. Ben

    The Republicans only want to investigate things that help their party, not the American people. What about investigating BP,Halitburton,Transoceans or the Dept MMS? How about we investigate both political parties to see how long this story stay around. Polictics is horse trading get use to it!

    June 2, 2010 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  3. Brenda

    Rot-roh...........

    This is definitely not good for Obama and the Democrats--another investigation to be opened--and there is a definite paper trail.

    Also, did you hear the latest news? Rahm Emanuel has been subpoenaed for Rod Blagovitch's trial.

    I wonder what information is going to come out about Obama and the Dems--and their job offers/bribes-- during this trial.

    June 2, 2010 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    Still not as bad as he Cheney presidency offering Pawlenty a lot in return for not running against Coleman.

    Republicans have no morals or ethics - they just try to dictate those to the rest of the world.

    June 2, 2010 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  5. New Age Independant

    Business as usual for Democrats? It seems that the campaign mantra of "Change" is another way of saying that we have voted for corruption. Liberals will take my words to mean support for Republicans, which is their ultimate failing. How anyone can knowingly support the actions of this administration is beyond comprehension.

    June 2, 2010 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  6. normajean

    I understand that this is not an uncommon practice and that it has taken place in the past with both the Democatic and Republican parties. Improper or not, it is not new and is a waste of time to make a big hoopla about it with everything else that's going on in this country right now.

    June 2, 2010 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  7. Victim of crooks in office

    Transparent as a mud fence.Typical chicago politics, it reeks of corruption and crooked deals behind the scenes.The American people are being screwed over royally by this bunch.

    June 2, 2010 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  8. Joe

    It will be intresting to watch the White House talk their way out of this one. I am sure they will come up with something. I do love when the defenders of the White House talk about how open and transparent this administration is. This might be the most corrupt group of people since the Nixon Administration. I know what must of the Libs will say. They will somehow blame Bush or say the Bush lied and People died. Guess what, Obama is the President not Bush-get a life

    June 3, 2010 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  9. Dan J

    TECHNICALLY, there was no offer, sure. But ethically... this is bad. What makes it worse is that this administration and this President were elected on the promise of change, and the promise to end the Washington back-dealing. I know that a lot of former Obama supporters are having some pretty significant buyer's remorse right now.

    June 3, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  10. Tom

    Those republicans who demand details forget about even greater abuse of power and influence by "rogue elephants"

    June 3, 2010 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  11. phoenix86

    The fringe left won't mind, but what the White House is doing is illegal.

    June 3, 2010 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  12. Anonymous

    gee, is this going to be the latest way to try and draw votes from your opponent?
    What politican has not been offered another job?

    June 3, 2010 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  13. Mohammed Chawla

    Chigaco politics, pure and simple.

    June 3, 2010 02:50 am at 2:50 am |
  14. Dan J

    The waters are getting a little murky for this administration that promised change and transparency.

    June 3, 2010 02:52 am at 2:52 am |