Congressman Seeks Full Accounting of White House Efforts to ‘Clear the (Primary) Field’

By Fred Lucas | June 4, 2010 | 8:28 AM EDT

Rep. Darryl Issa (R-Calif.) talks with reporters at a May 28, 2010 press conference on Capitol Hill. (Photo from Issa's Web site)

Washington ( – Following confirmation that the White House discussed alternative jobs with at least two Democratic Senate candidates to “clear the field” for President Obama’s chosen prospects, a top House Republican wants a full accounting of what other primaries the White House may have involved itself in.
“The American people should not have to rely on candidates and party leaders who have been on the wrong end of inappropriate and unlawful job offers to disclose those offers months after the fact,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer.
The White House has admitted its involvement in Senate races in Pennsylvania and Colorado, saying it brought up various White House jobs or presidential appointments to the two candidates as inducement for them to drop out of the Democratic primaries.
Issa, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is asking for a “full and complete list of all elections in which the White House engaged in efforts to persuade specific candidates to drop election bids, and if a job or any other thing of value meant to entice a candidate to withdraw from or not to enter the race was offered, specify to whom it was offered, and by whom it was offered.”
Issa also wants a “written commitment” from the White House “to preserve all records and communications related to any attempts by the White House to clear the field in Democratic primary elections.”
The White House, Issa said, “should honor the president’s commitment to making his administration the most open and transparent in history by cataloging and self-reporting any primary election upon which it attempted to exert influence.”
After three months without a clear answer, White House Counsel Bob Bauer issued a brief memorandum last Friday stating that former President Bill Clinton, at the request of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, offered Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) an unpaid position on a presidential advisory board in exchange for Sestak dropping his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter.
Sestak first said in February he was offered a job to quit the race but declined to give details.

President Barack Obama is greeted by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., as the president arrives at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., on Feb. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement saying that Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff of Colorado had initially applied for a job with USAID.
According to Gibbs, after reports that Romanoff would challenge Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim 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. 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.”
“I think leaders of parties have long had an interest in ensuring that supporters do not run against each other in divisive primaries,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during the daily briefing Thursday.
Gibbs also said “the president wasn’t aware” of the overture to Romanoff.  
“I think you all have received pertinent information in the past week on this,” Gibbs told reporters at Thursday’s briefing. “And yes, I do believe we’ve been transparent,” he added.