June 5th, 2010
09:58 AM ET
12 years ago

Steele keeps pressure on White House over Sestak, Romanoff

(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is keeping pressure on the White House amid revelations administration officials attempted to dissuade certain Democrats from launching Senate primary campaigns.

“From day one of this current flap involving Congressman Joe Sestak and now Andrew Romanoff, the White House efforts to deny, obfuscate, and mislead have only served to raise suspicions even further,” Steele says in the weekly Republican radio and internet address.

“If Rahm Emanuel has been offering government goodies to inconvenient politicians threatening Democrat incumbents, then it’s time for him to resign,” Steele also says. “If it comes out that the President knew about any of it, then we have a larger problem.”

Steele’s comments come in the wake of a White House counsel memo that revealed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton to offer to Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board if he did not challenge incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak declined the offer and defeated Specter in the May 18 primary.

Meanwhile, a Colorado Senate candidate who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary said last week 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.

Congressional Republicans say the conversations might be in violation of a string of federal laws –including 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) – and have called for an independent investigation.

Full Steele remarks after the jump:

“President Barack Obama promised that he “won’t stop fighting to open up government,” and that he would have “the most transparent administration in history.” Really?

“Of course, it’s one thing to keep that promise when you think it’ll help you politically. The real test of a man’s word is if he keeps it when it’s inconvenient, embarrassing or potentially damaging. On this test, the President and his people have failed.

“There’s a reason we have a law that prohibits Federal officials from offering things of value to people for political gain. It’s called transparency. And the White House’s efforts to use federal appointments to entice candidates out of competitive Democratic primaries goes directly against the Obama Administrations claims of openness and transparency.

“From day one of this current flap involving Congressman Joe Sestak and now Andrew Romanoff, the White House efforts to deny, obfuscate, and mislead have only served to raise suspicions even further.

“Three months ago, when Congressman Sestak claimed the White House offered him a job in return for dropping his primary challenge against Democrat incumbent Arlen Specter, the White House flatly denied it.

“After Sestak refused to recant his version of events, the White House finally conceded that some conversation happened but their message was “trust us, it wasn’t inappropriate, so move along, nothing to see here.”

“This exoneration-by-fiat didn’t pass the laugh test. It’s not up to the White House to judge the ethics of their behavior – that right is reserved for the American people once all the facts are on the table. So the demand for these facts continued.

“After three months of intense political pressure, we were finally served with a memo from the President’s lawyer, admitting that, contrary to previous denials, in fact, the White House did enlist former President Bill Clinton to offer the Congressman an allegedly unpaid position.

“However, the memo raises far more questions than it answers.

“First, the law doesn’t prohibit offers of only paid positions. So, offering the Congressman an unpaid position does nothing to exonerate Bill Clinton or White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

“Second, Sestak wouldn’t be able to accept a position on a Presidential advisory board and remain in Congress anyway, which casts doubt about whether this was really the job the White House offered.

“Third, the memo claims multiple conversations between President Clinton and Mr. Sestak during June and July of 2009. But Congressman Sestak insisted four times, just on Tuesday, that there was only one brief conversation. So who’s lying?

“Fourth, the memo alleges that President Obama knew nothing of all of these conversations.

“Now, why would the White House enlist the help of such a high-profile surrogate like former President Bill Clinton – on “multiple” occasions, without the knowledge of President Obama – for months-long negotiations over such a low-profile, unpaid position, and all with a Congressman who couldn’t even accept the job anyway?

“And now we know that this is only part of a larger pattern of backroom, Chicago-style politics. Andrew Romanoff, who’s challenging Democrat incumbent Michael Bennet for the Colorado Senate Democrat nomination, was offered a choice of one of three jobs by Rahm Emanuel’s deputy Jim Messina if he would drop out of the primary.

“Again, the White House first denied the allegations when they came from anonymous Administration whistle-blowers. But once the actual email from Messina was released by Romanoff, who probably didn’t like being called a liar by the White House, the story changed: again, the jobs were offered, but nothing inappropriate happened.

“After all of the stonewalling and denying, what is the White House’s latest defense? It was just business as usual.

“Enough is enough. If Rahm Emanuel has been offering government goodies to inconvenient politicians threatening Democrat incumbents, then it’s time for him to resign. If it comes out that the President knew about any of it, then we have a larger problem. And, if offering political appointments in exchange for sitting out of a campaign is the President’s proposal for “job-creation,” then we’re in for more economic misery.

“The time has come for more than just self-exonerating claims from the President’s lawyer. The Department of Justice must step in and assign an impartial referee, either in the form of a special investigator or an independent counsel, who can sort out the facts and answer the burning question – what did the White House offer to Sestak and Romanoff, who authorized the offer, who else knew about it and what was the expected trade-off for accepting the offer?

“The President promised transparency. All we have right now is a series of transparent cover-ups. So much for “change you can believe in.”

Filed under: Michael Steele • President Obama
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. mamacoo

    The President has always been considered the leader of the party regardless of if they are Republican or Democrat. As such, they campaign for people , raise money and determine who would be the best representative for the position if asked. It is amazing to me how now all of a sudden Republicans and Obama haters are trying their best to make it seem as if President Obama is the first and only President to have become involved in an election.

    This is typical Republican BS. Throw stuff out there and hope something sticks. Continue to spend time, effort and money attempting to destroy the duly elected President of the United States. Heaven forbid they should spend their time and energy doing something positive for the country. Heaven forbid they should actually WORK WITH the President rather than trying to destroy him. I'm surprised people don't recognize these tactics. It is the same thing they did to Bill Clinton. Then the Supreme Court installed Bush who promptly began to destroy the country, then used fear, scare and smear to get you gullible people to vote them into a second term . They proceeded to screw the country. They then began their campaign to blame President Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmie Carter for everything wrong with the country that happened on their watch.

    June 5, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. Keith in Austin

    You Liberal weasils spewing the typical rancorous drivel need to open your beadie little eyes for a change! If the WH is found to be complicit in rigging elections by offering cush Government jobs paid for by the taxpayers, those involved (including King Bozo) should be prosecuted.

    Ask yourselves the obvious question: Would you be screaming bloody murder if a GOP administration got caught doing the same sleazy thing??? Duh.... We all know the answer! The clock is ticking till November. Liberal Democrats and left-wing politics will soon be put in mothballs. Tic toc tic toc...

    June 5, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. Ann

    This is a Chicago-based White House. What did you expect?

    June 5, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  4. Marian

    Made my comments last week regarding this stupid "witch hunt" of Steele's, what I want to know what has he done to help the oil spill? Did he make any suggestions regarding the clean up or future preventive measures......I don't thinks so. Come on GOP we've got bigger problems in our great country to worry about who offered who a job, that wasn't even taken. How much money is the GOP spending regarding this matter?? or is this more money spend from donations of trusting citizens in moving our country forward?? from a Democrat prospective it's a joke, so keep it doing it Mr Steele we can laugh at something, but it doesn't take our minds off the real problems!!!!

    June 5, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. Larry

    Give it a rest Steele. Every time you jerk Republicans open your mouths we know it's just a publicity stunt.

    Relax, save your energy.

    June 5, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  6. JonDie

    What to do about nothing.

    June 5, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  7. Ruth

    Why don't the republicans "put heat" on an investigation of Bush and Cheney for war crimes? How about the world trade center bombings, waterboarding, lying about everything, mission accomplished remark etc. Those two morons should be waterboarded to get to the truth.

    June 5, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. Len (Colorado)

    To Keith in Austin,

    Bush and Cheney did terrible things, from starting a illegal war, water boarding (which is illegal and Bush admitted he authorized it this week), Cheney secret meeting with the Big Oil companies and to this day we have know idea waht was agreed on, Bush/Cheney okayed deep water oil drilling, their regulators took bribes from 2003 to 2008 from oil companies( Reported by the Associated Press last week), but they were not investigated and their staff was given executive priviledge (which is not correct) about wire tapping and more.

    So get off your horse most of the problems in this country right now is because of Bush/Cheney and you right wing nuts!

    June 5, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. Georgia Joe

    This whole issue shows how devoid of ideas Republicans really are. They are attempting to make something out of nothing. Political leaders try to field the strongest candidates and do it without primaries all the time. This is not out of the norm and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It's simply how the business gets done.

    June 5, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  10. miken

    This is a crooked white house and this is not what we expected from obama. He doesn't seem to care about the law whether it be bribes or illegal immigrants. The only Hope left is to get rid of him.

    June 5, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  11. coastlinescott

    Its OK to break some laws?

    The next time Im speeding and get pulled over I wil give the police officer that excuse.

    June 5, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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