And in two simple, terse words, Colorado’s Andrew Romanoff told me today he would cooperate with a congressional investigation into Jobsgate headed by Congressman Darryl Issa. Or a Justice Department investigation if Attorney General Eric Holder’s highly politicized staff finally decided to investigate their White House bosses.
Romanoff made the statement live and on-air in an exclusive interview on Peter Boyles’ KHOW -Denver radio talk show Wednesday morning.
Romanoff had been avoiding Boyles for months. He had avoided me.
Engaged in a hot race for the Democratic Senate nomination with appointed Senator Michael Bennet, Romanoff’s name had surfaced early on in revelations that the Obama White House had on at least two occasions offered jobs to potential Senate candidates — if they would withdraw from challenges to incumbent Democratic Senators.
This is, according to any number of legal experts, a federal crime.
At the center of the story in the beginning was Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak, who has since defeated Obama-favorite Arlen Specter for the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, ending Specter’s 30-year Senate career.
When first written about in this space back in February, days after Sestak had admitted in an interview with Philadelphia television anchor Larry Kane that he had in fact been offered a job in exchange for the favor of his withdrawal, the issue of “Jobsgate” arose immediately.
Kane had already checked with the White House on the issue. He played the Sestak tape — and received an outright denial. There had been no job offer, said the Obama White House. Period.
In this space we quickly explored the issue of a potential federal crime — and discovered a Denver Post story from September of 2009 alleging that a similar offer had been in play between the White House and Romanoff. The story said that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina had offered Romanoff a job at the U.S. Agency for International Development in return for his withdrawal from the race against Obama’s favorite — Senator Bennet.
With the fat in the fire, Mr. Romanoff chose to stonewall.
While Sestak repeatedly declined to reveal the truth in one interview after another, Romanoff simply declined to answer questions. Period.
Which is where Peter Boyles entered the story. Boyles had repeatedly tried to get Romanoff to appear on his Denver talk show, something Romanoff had done on occasion as a Colorado political activist and former Speaker of the Colorado State House. But that was before the Jobsgate issue arose. Now — no go. Romanoff was turning down Boyles repeatedly. Boyles had read my Jobsgate stories. He invited me to appear on his show and soon I was making multiple appearances as the story exploded into public view and kept going and going and going. Peter Boyles is a funny guy — but beneath that humor is a quite fearless willingness to dig into stories Colorado politicians and the Colorado powerful wish to ignore.
There were repeated denials and evasions from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs — now with White House correspondents from Fox News and ABC in the hunt for answers. Through all of this, Romanoff simply stiff-armed the media, including Boyles and myself. A call to Mr. Romanoff’s cell phone from me, with a message left, went unreturned.
Into this picture stepped Congressman Issa, the California Republican who serves as the Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa began asking questions on the issue of White House Counsel Robert F. Bauer And of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Answers, to say the least, were not forthcoming.
Yet as Bill O’Reilly has noted, there’s a “new sheriff” in town in terms of Fox News and the new media — which includes Peter Boyles out there in Denver. Mr. Boyles kept digging. I kept digging. All manner of others in the New Media — or what we call here
“The Virtual Newsroom” — kept digging. Sean Hannity was like a dog with a bone on this issue.
And sure enough — suddenly — progress.
The White House released a report that said, well, um, yes, ahhhh, gee….there was a job offer. To Sestak. And multiple job offers to Romanoff. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had asked former President Bill Clinton to contact Congressman Sestak with a job offer of an appointment to an advisory board on foreign intelligence. And, as the Denver Post had originally reported, Emanuel’s deputy, Jim Messina, did in fact make the US AID job offer to Romanofff along with two others.
At that point, Romanoff finally began to open up. While I didn’t get a return phone call, he did do some interviews, including on Fox, admitting the truth he had been so reluctant to discuss for months.
So the news with this interview?
The August 10th Colorado primary approaches. Romanoff has been endorsed by Bill Clinton — while Bennet carries the flag for the Obama White House. According to a story in the Colorado Independent, Romanoff is trailing Bennet in fundraising and has been trailing in the polls. But no election is over until it’s over — and Romanoff is clearly going all out, fueled in part by Clinton’s endorsement.
So finally it was time to bite the bullet — and talk to Peter Boyles. Who, in turn was gracious enough to invite me on the show and chat as well.
Romanoff was surely startled to find himself talking to me. But he was gracious — and moved the story forward.
Since his round of interviews when the White House put out the Bauer report, Congressman Issa had made it clear he would be pursuing his investigation.
So the key question to Romanoff: Win, lose or draw in his race for the Senate, would Andrew Romanoff cooperate with Congressman Issa in his investigation into Jobsgate? Were Attorney General Holder to pursue a Justice Department investigation into his White House bosses — would Andrew Romanoff cooperate?
Without missing a beat, live and on-air with Peter Boyles and Denver listening in, Romanoff was crisp.
Romanoff said he had no idea how the job offers were generated. Which translates: we don’t know whether outgoing Democratic Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who had appointed Bennet, was the instigator of the Colorado version of Jobsgate. Was it Governor Ritter who got Messina to make the job offers to Romanoff? Or did the idea originate in the White House.
Mr. Romanoff had a “don’t know” answer for that.
He clearly wanted to talk about other issues — anything, I’m sure — other than Jobsgate. He said he didn’t believe Denver was being run as a “Sanctuary City” — a charge being made repeatedly against Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is running for the Democrats’ nomination for governor. Romanoff, as with Sestak in Pennsylvania, insisted that the real issue was jobs and that Coloradans wanted to talk about how he would help create jobs.
I took the opportunity to point out that credibility was a basic issue with Americans all over the country. Noting with humor that I had early on in life served as press secretary to a U.S. Senator, it had amazed me that he, Romanoff, thought he could simply not answer questions on the Jobsgate issue and not have people be concerned about the basic issue of his being forthcoming on any issue. His answer? Romanoff quickly said if he wins he might offer me a job.
A job? A job for a favor?
Uh-oh. Isn’t that where we started? Touché to Mr. Romanoff.
The show went into the usual commercial break.
Suddenly I heard Peter Boyles’ voice coming through the line off-air.
It seems Mr. Romanoff had enough. He had just told the Boyles producer he wasn’t staying on the line. And with that…interview over.
Here’s to you, Andrew Romanoff. Koo-koo ka-chew, as Simon and Garfunkel used to say.
Thanks for talking. Thanks for answering an important question.
And Congressman Issa?
Mr. Romanoff is happy to cooperate with you. Peter Boyles has the tape.