The explosive revelation came a week after the Obama administration acknowledged that former President Bill Clinton had approached Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania with an offer of a possible unpaid advisory position if he would forego a challenge to incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter.
"In September 2009, shortly after the news media first reported my plans to run for the Senate, I received a call from Jim Messina, the president's deputy chief of staff. Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet. I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run," Romanoff, who spent Wednesday campaigning in Fort Collins, said in a prepared statement.
"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.
In addition to the prepared statement, Romanoff released an e-mail from Messina outlining three potential positions for Romanoff in the administration: deputy assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean with the U.S. Agency for International Development; director of USAID's Office of Democracy and governance; and director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Romanoff said he left Messina a voicemail saying he was staying in the Senate race, ending his contacts with the White House.
The Denver Post and 9NEWS reported in September that the White House had discussed job possibilities with the former Colorado House speaker, but Romanoff had steadfastly refused to comment or even confirm the existence of such discussions.
He had come under increasing pressure in recent days to disclose those contacts, especially in the wake of the White House counsel's report on the administration's dealings with Sestak. Unlike Sestak's case, the White House discussions with Romanoff involved possible paid positions.
"I have declined comment because I did not want - and do not want - to politicize this matter," Romanoff said in the prepared statement. "A great deal of misinformation has filled the void in the meantime. That does not serve the public interest or any useful purpose."
Romanoff released his statement hours after The Associated Press, citing unnamed White House sources, acknowledged that preliminary job discussions had taken place with Romanoff.
The Coloradoan had talked with him twice Wednesday about the issue, and a clearly anguished Romanoff said he wasn't sure if he would comment.
"I hope we can talk about the campaign," he said in a phone interview just before releasing the statement.
Deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said the administration approached Romanoff at the request of Colorado Democrats.
"Mr. Romanoff was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the administration," he said. "There were some initial conversations with him but no job was ever offered."
President Barack Obama has endorsed Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter to fill the seat vacated when Ken Salazar was named Interior secretary. Obama has campaigned for Bennet in Colorado.
Romanoff easily won the most delegates at last month's Democratic assembly to win top-line designation over Bennet in the Aug. 10 primary. However, Bennet has a huge fundraising and organizational advantage over Romanoff.
The winner will face the winner of the Republican primary between Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton.
The Bennet campaign sidestepped questions Wednesday on the White House job discussions with Romanoff.
"Speaker Romanoff's statement and the earlier statements by the White House speak for themselves. Michael is going to keep focusing on solutions for Colorado, like creating jobs, improving education, cracking down on Wall Street, and fixing a broken Washington," Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid said.
Republicans and conservative media commentators have criticized the Obama administration for attempts to use possible presidential appointments to push Democratic candidates out of challenges to incumbents.
The liberal watchdog group Media Matters has pointed out that the Reagan administration in 1981 offered incumbent Republican Sen. S.I. Hayakawa an administration position if he would drop out of California's GOP primary, which included the president's daughter, Maureen Reagan. Hayakawa spurned the job offer but later decided not to seek re-election.
The revelations about offers to Sestak and Romanoff come in an election year in which voters have expressed frustration with political wheeling and dealing. And Obama in 2008 campaigned on a promise to move away from politics as usual in Washington.
"The White House should put itself out of its own self-made misery and submit to an independent review," Dana Perino, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, told the Coloradoan. "That's the only way this will be resolved to the satisfaction of the public, plus it will help them going into the mid-terms if they have this behind them, whatever the outcome."
This story written by Bob Moore, Fort Collins Coloradoan.
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