White House Confirms Efforts to Entice Sestak Out of Senate Race, Denies Impropriety

The White House responds to the Joe Sestak non-scandal, confirming that it worked to dissuade the Pennsylvania congressman from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in the Democratic Senate primary but dismissing all charges of impropriety.

“We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law,” the memo reads.

First, it addresses the rumor that the administration offered Sestak the position of Secretary of the Navy. “The President announced his intent to nominate Ray Mabus to be Secretary of the Navy on March 26, 2009, over a month before Senator Specter announced that he was becoming a member of the Democratic Party in late April. Mabus was confirmed in May. At no time was Congressman Sestak offered, nor did he seek, the position of Secretary of the Navy.”

Then, it confirms that, as reported this morning by Greg Sargent, the White House enlisted Bill Clinton to see if Sestak would be interested in an uncompensated advisory role in the executive branch, on top of his congressional duties.

“It has been suggested that discussions of alternatives to the Senate campaign were improperly raised with the Congressman,” the memo continues. “There was no such impropriety. The Democratic Party leadership had a legitimate interest in averting a divisive primary fight and a similarly legitimate concern about the Congressman vacating his seat in the House. … There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations — both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals — discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office. Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.”

Full memo here. (h/t Marc Ambinder)