The White House admitted recently that it offered Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff a job at the U.S. Agency for International Development, but it has never said specifically what it offered Rep. Joe Sestak to keep him from challenging Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary.
"Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a presidential or other senior executive branch advisory board," counsel Robert Bauer wrote in the one-and-a-half-page White House "report" on the matter. Neither Bauer nor White House spokesman Robert Gibbs provided any more details.
Serving on an advisory board, Bauer said, would allow Sestak to keep his seat in the House -- having a Democrat in that seat was a key part of the White House plan -- and still serve "in a high-level advisory capacity."
So former President Clinton made his famous call to Sestak, reportedly to discuss a spot for Sestak on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. "I heard 'presidential board,' and I think it was intel," Sestak later said of his conversation with Clinton. Sestak said he rejected the idea out of hand.
Shortly after the release of the White House report, however, we learned that the rules of the intelligence board expressly forbid employees of the federal government from serving. As a member of Congress, Sestak is ineligible to be on the board.
So maybe Bauer meant another board. But a closer look at the other presidential boards the White House might have mentioned shows that they, too, bar federal employees.
There are three presidential boards in the White House. One is the intelligence board. Another is the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which is made up, according to its bylaws, of members "who shall be appointed by the President, from among individuals not employed by the federal government." The third is the recently created President's Management Advisory Board, whose members, the bylaws say, "shall be appointed by the President from among distinguished citizens from outside the federal government."
Even a lesser group, like the recently recast President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is made up of "distinguished individuals and representatives from sectors outside of the federal government."
Rep. Sestak would be ineligible for all of them.
There's a good reason for the rules. Having a member of Congress serve on a presidential advisory board would violate the separation of powers.