Acting as an intermediary for the White House, former President Bill Clinton asked Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) if he could be dissuaded from his ambition to run for the Senate with a position on an unpaid presidential advisory board.
White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer released a memo today that disclosed the the administration's version of what happened. "We have concluded that allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and have no basis in law," Bauer wrote.
The discussions with Sestak happened in June and July of 2009, more than two months after Sen. Arlen Specter had become a Democrat and received Obama's endorsement, the memo said. No one from the White House discussed the matter directly with Sestak, Bauer said. Clinton was acting at the request of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Afterward, Sestak released a statement confirming the White House version of events, including Clinton's role.
"Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton," Sestak said. "During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background.
"He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no. I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I'd say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects."
Sestak and the White House did not name which advisory board possibilities were presented to Sestak, though the New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that one was the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.
Last week, Sestak defeated the five-term Specter for the Democratic nomination, and he faces Republican candidate Pat Toomey Nov. 2. The allegation, which Sestak first raised in a television interview in February, has flared up since his victory, with congressional Republicans calling for a criminal investigation and some Democratic leaders asking for the White House and Sestak to be more forthcoming.