|The White House called Andrew Romanoff to gauge his interest in an administration job last fall.|
WASHINGTON — The White House confirmed yesterday that it contacted Andrew Romanoff to gauge his interest in an administration job last fall as the Colorado politician was preparing to launch a Senate bid but also said Romanoff had sought a job with the Obama government months earlier.
The White House said Romanoff applied for a job at the US Agency for International Development during the postelection transition process and “followed up by phone with White House personnel’’ once the new administration was underway.
Nine months later, deputy White House chief of staff Jim Messina called and e-mailed Romanoff, according to the White House, because administration officials had heard he was entering the Democratic primary race for a Colorado Senate seat. Obama had already endorsed the incumbent, Senator Michael Bennet, the statement said, and “Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.’’
“But Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the administration, and that ended the discussion,’’ the statement by Robert Gibbs, press secretary, continued. “As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.’’
Romanoff, a former speaker of the House in Colorado, did not mention his original application to join USAID when he offered his version of the discussions late Wednesday night. Romanoff said he received a call from Messina as he prepared to announce that he would challenge Bennett in the Democratic primary.
Messina made it clear that the administration would support Bennet in the August primary. Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, appointed Bennet to the Senate last year after Ken Salazar resigned to become interior secretary. Gibbs said Obama was not aware of the contact between Messina and Romanoff.
“Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina’s assistance in obtaining one,’’ Romanoff said.
Romanoff attached to his statement an e-mail from Messina that outlined three jobs: the US Agency for International Development’s deputy assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean; director of USAID’s Office of Democracy and Governance; and director of the US Trade and Development Agency.
Romanoff’s statement was made less than two weeks after questions about what job, if any, the White House offered to Representative Joe Sestak in hopes of driving him from a Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania against Senator Arlen Specter.
The White House ultimately released a report from counsel Bob Bauer that revealed that Bill Clinton had approached Sestak about leaving the race but concluded that the administration never formally contacted the candidate.
The request is an indication that Republicans are continuing to investigate President Obama’s nominee for her decision to bar recruiters in protest of the military’s prohibition against openly gay soldiers.
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is asking the Defense Department to turn over eight years’ worth of records, including communications with Harvard about access to its campus.
Meeting in the Oval Office, Obama said Arizona’s law and similar efforts by more than 20 states would interfere with the federal government’s responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy.
Neither side appeared to give ground. Obama urged her to “be his partner’’ in working toward a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s badly fractured immigration system.
The unusual meeting between the president and the governor was a byproduct of Brewer’s decision to sign a first-of-its-kind law requiring police enforcing other laws to check immigration status if there is reason to believe someone is in the country illegally. The law also makes being here illegally a state crime. Brewer had sought the meeting.