Friday, May 28, 2010

White House whopper: Bill Clinton dispatched to offer Sestak an unpaid position

The Washington Post is reporting that the White House dispatched former President Bill Clinton to talk to Joe Sestak:
Senior White House advisers asked former President Bill Clinton to talk to Joe Sestak about whether he was serious about running for Senate, and to feel out whether he'd be open to other alternatives, according to sources familiar with the situation.

But the White House maintains that the Clinton-Sestak discussions were informal, according to the sources. The White House, under pressure to divulge the specifics of its interactions with Sestak, will release a formal statement later today outlining their version of events, including Clinton's involvement.

According to the sources, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel asked Clinton and his longtime adviser, lawyer Doug Band, to talk to Sestak about the race. It's unclear right now whether the White House will say that Clinton was asked to suggest specific administration positions for Sestak, whether Clinton floated positions on his own, whether Clinton discussed other options not related to the adminstration, or whether employment even came up at all in the talks.

But the news that Clinton is at the center of this whole story is noteworthy on its own because of the former president's stature, and underscores how heavily invested the White House was in dissuading Sestak from running. The White House sent Clinton to talk to Sestak because Arlen Specter, constituting the 60th Dem vote in the Senate, was viewed as key to enacting Obama's agenda.
WaPo update at 11:35am:
I noted earlier that the White House asked Bill Clinton to meet with Joe Sestak to gauge whether he'd be open to alternatives other than running for Senate.

Now I've got some detail on precisely what alternatives were discussed.

According to a source familiar with the situation, the White House asked Clinton and his adviser, lawyer Doug Band, to suggest to Sestak an unpaid position on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

This is similar to what The New York Times's Peter Baker was told by sources, and Baker adds that the White House counsel looked at the the offer and concluded it wasn't illegal:

The office of Robert F. Bauer, the White House counsel, has concluded that Mr. Emanuel's proposal did not violate laws prohibiting government employees from promising employment as a reward for political activity because the position being offered was unpaid. The office also found other examples of presidents offering positions to political allies to achieve political aims.

That dovetails with what I'm hearing the White House has concluded.

The fact that this is an unpaid position could be key. I've checked in with a good government expert to gauge this latest, and will update you when I hear back.
The Washington Post story very likely accelerated the timeline for the White House response which was issued moments later (I'm sure the administration wanted to release it in the darkness of Memorial Day Friday evening when nobody was paying attention).

So, the White House offered Representative Sestak an unpaid position to get out of the senate race.  No wonder he rejected the offer!  This explanation doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Read it for yourself here.

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