WASHINGTON - One of President Obama's top advisers suggested to a Colorado Democrat that he forgo a primary challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet and instead apply for one of three international development jobs.
The disclosure came just days after the White House acknowledged orchestrating a job offer in the Pennsylvania Senate race with the similar goal of avoiding a divisive Democratic primary.
The back-room deals - former President Bill Clinton led the Pennsylvania effort and White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina worked with former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff - called into question Obama's repeated promises to run an open government.
Romanoff said in a statement Wednesday night that he was never promised a job and did not ask for help in getting one. Earlier, a White House official insisted that nothing inappropriate or illegal took place but did not provide the details Romanoff offered in a statement and a copy of an e-mail he had received from Messina.
"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."
Messina, a tough-minded veteran of Senate politics and one of the president's best fixers, spoke with Romanoff on Sept. 11, 2009, and suggested that Romanoff might better use his time at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions," Romanoff said.
Messina sent Romanoff job descriptions for three positions: an administrator for Latin America and Caribbean; the chief of the Office of Democracy and Governance; and the director trade office.
Romanoff said he later left a message on Messina's voice mail saying he would continue his Senate campaign. The primary is Aug. 10.
The Colorado episode follows a similar incident in Pennsylvania. The White House acknowledged Friday that it turned to 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 last month for the Democratic nomination after disclosing the discussions.