WASHINGTON – The White House used former President Bill Clinton to offer an unpaid advisory position to Rep. Joe Sestak in hopes of persuading him to drop his Pennsylvania Senate primary challenge to President Barack Obama's favored candidate, according to an internal report issued Friday.
Seeking to quiet the clamor from Republicans and some Democrats over a possible quid pro quo, the White House released a report describing the offer intended to clear a path for Sen. Arlen Specter to win the Democratic nomination.
White House Counsel Robert Bauer's two-page report said there was no improper conduct. No one in the administration discussed the offer with Sestak, he said.
Instead, the report said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel enlisted Clinton's help as a go-between with Sestak. Clinton agreed to raise the offer of a seat on a presidential advisory board or another executive board if Sestak dropped his bid, "which would avoid a divisive Senate primary," the report said.
Sestak could remain in the House while serving on a board.
Sestak declined the offer. He defeated the five-term Specter, who had switched from Republican to Democrat last year at the White House's urging, in the May 18 Democratic primary.
Emanuel and Sestak both worked in the White House when Clinton was president and both remain close with their former boss.
Bauer, in the report, argued that previous Democratic and Republican administration "motivated by the same goals — discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office." The report said such actions aren't illegal nor unethical.
For weeks, the White House had insisted officials did not behave inappropriately but declined to elaborate. But after Sestak won the nomination, Republicans renewed their questions of the administration, with some calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor. The Justice Department denied those requests.
Sestak did little to quell the outcry as he continued to say he was offered a job.
Sestak's spokesman had no immediate comment on Friday.
At a White House news conference on Thursday, Obama told reporters a full accounting would be forthcoming.
"I can assure the public that nothing improper took place," he said.
Two top Democrats — party chief Tim Kaine and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate — said during the week that the White House and Sestak needed to address the questions. So, too, did Sestak's Republican challenger in Pennsylvania, former Rep. Pat Toomey.