WASHINGTON – The Obama administration dangled the possibility of a government job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forgo a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, officials said Wednesday, just days after the White House admitted orchestrating a job offer in the Pennsylvania Senate race.
These officials declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.
The new revelation of a possible political trade again called into question President Barack Obama’s repeated promises to run an open government that was above back room deals.
The Colorado episode follows a similar controversy in Pennsylvania. An embarrassed White House admitted last Friday that it turned to former President Bill Clinton last year to approach Rep. Joe Sestak about backing out of the primary in favor of an unpaid position on a federal advisory board.
Sestak declined the offer and defeated Sen. Arlen 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 has ducked questions on the subject, and it was not clear how long his discussions with administration officials lasted.
Romanoff had sought appointment to the Senate seat that eventually went to Bennet, publicly griped he had been passed over and then discussed possible appointment possibilities inside the administration, one of the officials said.
Republicans have strongly criticized the offer to Sestak, and challenged Romanoff to answer questions about his own dealings with the White House.
Bennet has outpaced Romanoff in fundraising and support from Washington, although party activists attending the state party assembly last month favored the challenger by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. The primary is Aug. 10.
Bennet was appointed by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill out the final two years of the term of Ken Salazar, who resigned to become interior secretary.
Romanoff’s campaign spokesman did not immediately respond to questions.
Associated Press Writer Kristen Wyatt in Denver contributed to this report.