After months of silence and denials, the White House admitted last month that it had offered an unspecified advisory government position to Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, through former President Bill Clinton, if he would abandon his primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter.
Sestak, who had said the White House offered him a government "job," rejected the offer and went on to beat Specter in the primary. In a report from presidential counsel Robert Bauer, the White House maintained that no paid position had been offered, nor had they made any direct offer to Sestak.
But troubling questions remained about whether the approach to Sestak came with a more substantive paid job offer than the White House acknowledged -- suspicions that the Romanoff job offer only serve to heighten.
Mr. Clinton, after all, is forever identified with the most bald-faced public lie in modern American politics -- "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
And the Obama White House has clearly been caught lying in all this, too. Earlier, it had denied that any job offer was made to Sestak, only to admit that they had a high-powered intermediary do just that. And when the Denver Post first reported in September that a job offer had been made to Romanoff, the newspaper quoted a White House spokesman saying, "Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration."
The federal job offer e-mail from Messina doesn't just list the title and agency of each post that was being dangled before him. It goes on in some detail about what the job would entail, what the agency does, the size of its budget and the number of employees he would have under him if he took the offer.
This time, White House counsel Bauer cannot make the argument that the political buy-off target was never contacted directly or that only a small-potatoes, unpaid advisory post was actually tendered.
And we are not talking here about some lower-level West Wing rogue operative. Messina would not be offering a bouquet of federal jobs to a U.S. Senate candidate to abandon a primary race without approval from his boss, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who in turn is practicing the kind of Chicago-style, knee-cap politics that President Obama wants him to play.
This is a political scandal that very possibly involves criminal activity, one that very likely goes well beyond these two Senate races, and that calls for the appointment of a high-level independent special prosecutor.
And the responsibility for playing this kind of shady, underhanded, payoff politics goes all the way to the top.