WASHINGTON – The White House faced fresh questions over back-room dealmaking after it acknowledged one of President Obama's top advisers had suggested to a Democratic candidate the potential for an administration job in lieu of challenging the candidate whom the president favored in the Colorado Senate race.
Former Colorado House of Representatives Speaker Andrew Romanoff on Wednesday night released a copy of an e-mail in which White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina described three federal international development jobs that might be available to him if he were not challenging Sen. Michael Bennet for the Democratic nomination.
"He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions," Romanoff said in a statement. "At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina's assistance in obtaining one."
Earlier in the day, a White House official said no formal offer was ever made and insisted there was nothing inappropriate in the contacts -- rhetoric similar to the explanation given last week when the White House admitted it orchestrated a job offer to Senate candidate Joe Sestak in the Pennsylvania primary.
"Mr. Romanoff was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the administration," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said. "There were some initial conversations with him but no job was ever offered."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs added that Romanoff had applied for a position at USAID during the president's transition and Messina was following up on that application when he called the lawmaker.
Last September, Romanoff told the Denver Post he declined the offer. The White House denied to the paper that it had made any deal. The day after Romanoff entered the race, Obama endorsed Bennet. Two weeks ago, Romanoff won the Democratic Party endorsement against Bennet, which offers a big boost heading into the Aug. 10 primary.
Still, the newest revelation calls into question repeated promises by Obama to run an open government that was above private political horse-trading. In appealing to voters this election year, Republicans charge that Obama's promise to change the ways of Washington has given way to the craven politics he campaigned against.
An embarrassed White House said last Friday that it asked former President Bill Clinton last year to approach Sestak about backing out of the Senate primary against party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter in favor of an unpaid position on a federal advisory board.
Sestak declined the offer and defeated Specter late last month for the Democratic nomination after disclosing the job discussions and highlighting it as evidence of his anti-establishment political credentials. He said last week he rejected Clinton's feeler in less than a minute.
In a two-page report on the Sestak case, the White House counsel said the administration did nothing illegal or unethical.
Unlike Sestak, Romanoff had ducked questions on the subject before issuing his statement Wednesday night. Also unlike Sestak, Romanoff was out of office and looking for his next act after being forced from his job because of term limits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.