WASHINGTON — At the urging of the Obama White House, former President Bill Clinton asked Rep. Joe Sestak whether he would abandon his plans to challenge Sen. Arlen Specter in a Pennsylvania Democratic primary if given an unpaid advisory position, according to a White House counsel report issued Friday.
Clinton made the inquiries on behalf of chief of staff Rahm Emanuel last summer, as Sestak began his challenge of Specter, a former Republican who had switched parties, White House counsel Bob Bauer wrote. Obama backed Specter's re-election bid over Sestak, who defeated the senator this month.
Bauer concluded that nothing improper had taken place and that "allegations of improper conduct rest on factual errors and lack a basis in the law." Contrary to allegations by many conservative pundits, he found that Sestak had not been offered the position of secretary of the Navy.
Sestak confirmed the account in a statement Friday. Clinton called him last summer, expressed "concern over my prospects" in the primary and spoke of the value of having Sestak in the House, according to the statement. Clinton said Emanuel had talked to him about giving Sestak a position on a presidential board while he remained in the House, Sestak wrote.
Though efforts to head off primary challenges are common, the White House had remained tight-lipped about the incident for months, fueling suspicions.