Did Bennet know about ‘bribe,’ rival Norton asks

One of two Democrats running for the party’s U.S. Senate nomination said he was told by a White House aide that he might be considered for one of three jobs if he didn’t challenge the incumbent, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

The aide, Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama, told Andrew Romanoff he couldn’t guarantee appointment to any of the positions.

“At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina’s assistance in obtaining one,” Romanoff said in a statement.

That didn’t stop Republican Jane Norton from describing the offer as a bribe and questioning whether Bennet was aware of it as the likely beneficiary.

“Was Michael Bennet aware that the White House was trying to bribe Andrew Romanoff out of the race? Did Michael Bennet talk to White House operatives about the Romanoff bribe? Did Michael Bennet pressure the White House to offer Romanoff a position?” Norton said in a statement released after Romanoff’s statement.

That brought a sharp response from Bennet’s campaign, which said the Republicans were trying “to divert attention away from their fractured party and their vicious upcoming primary.”

Norton and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck are battling for the GOP nomination.

Buck didn’t respond Thursday to a request for comment.

Norton’s campaign manager, Sen. Josh Penry, said the GOP fight is nothing compared to the Democrats’ fight.

“Jane and Ken are duking it out a little, but there’s a lot more margin for error for the Republicans because of this blood feud that’s developed between Romanoff and Bennet,” Penry said.

Romanoff and Bennet are running for the Democrats’ nomination with both races to be decided by an Aug. 10 primary.

It was common knowledge that Romanoff had applied for jobs in the Obama administration and in Colorado, but conversations Bennet had with the White House “focused on the president’s continued support for his campaign, regardless of what career path Speaker Romanoff chose to follow,” Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid said.

The jobs that might have been available to Romanoff included deputy administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean and director of the Office of Democracy and Governance, both in the U.S. Agency for International Development, and director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, a position that would have required Senate confirmation.

The incident came on the heels of an offer the White House made through former President Bill Clinton to U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., to persuade Sestak not to oppose U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania. Sestak rejected the offer and defeated Specter last month in the primary.


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