From NBC's Mark Murray
White House Counsel Robert Bauer this morning released a two-page letter asserting that the White House -- through former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary -- inquired whether Rep. Joe Sestak would be interested in an uncompensated position on a presidential or executive-branch advisory board to avoid a primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter.
But Bauer concluded that the White House did nothing improper or illegal.
From Bauer's letter:
Efforts were made in June and July 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified. The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak, while important to the work of the Administration, would have been uncompensated.
"White House staff did not discuss these options with Congressman Sestak. The White House Chief of Staff enlisted the support for former President Clinton who agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board. Congressman Sestak declined the suggested alternatives, remaining committed to his Senate candidacy.
It has been suggested that discussions of alternatives to the Senate campaign were improperly raised with the Congressman. 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.