Accusing Romanoff of insider politics, Penry exposes his own dealing

The story that Andrew Romanoff was offered a job by a White House staffer if he droped out of the race for Senate should have become a non-event by now. Despite Republican attempts to criminalize this tentative offer, it is clear that Romanoff did nothing wrong.

Those who claim to be “shocked- shocked” to learn that political horsetrading is common are about as convincing as Louie in Casablanca. As Colorado Pols pointed out, “if Romanoff decided that he would rather run for Senate than take a job in the Obama administration, well, OK. That’s certainly his decision to make, and it’s not at all something that rises to any sort of scandal.”

Jane Norton and her campaign manager, Josh Penry, took the story to a new level by attempting to involve Michael Bennet in this “scandal.” Norton asked, “Was Michael Bennet aware that the White House was trying to bribe Andrew Romanoff our of the race?”

Since nothing approaching a bribe was offered, that would seem to be a no-brainer. However, if Norton and Penry continue to make an issue of this attempt to avoid a divisive and expensive primary by encouraging one candidate to drop out, they are going to have to answer for Josh Penry’s very similar experience.

While Romanoff and the White House have acknowledged that the offer was advanced, both agree that it was declined without further discussion. Romanoff had applied months before for a position in the Obama government, but by the time the offer came, he was committed to the Senate race. He stuck by that commitment.

In similar circumstances, Penry made the opposite decision. According to a Denver Post story, “a source within Penry’s campaign said there had been ‘back channel’ meetings with both campaigns since Election Day,” November 3, 2009. These “back channel” meetings climaxed a few days later with Penry being summoned to a meeting with Scott McInnis and some unnamed “wealthy Republicans.”

In that meeting Penry, already lagging behind McInnis in fundraising, was allegedly informed that “big money names in the state expected to start a powerful independent political committee not restricted by campaign finance limits,” according to the Post.

Shortly thereafter, Penry disappointed supporters by announcing that he would withdraw from the race and throw his support to McInnis. In a grudging endorsement, Penry said, “I still believe I was the best candidate, but it’s not in the best intwerests of the state or the party to wage a war of attrition. Scott is better for the state than Bill Ritter.”

Liberal bloggers have insisted that Penry was offered a position in return for dropping out of the race. Progress Now Colorado demanded that McInnis disclose the inducement offered to Penry to quit the race. “How can Penry assert charges of ‘corruption’ [by Romanoff], after he reportedly bragged about the deal he received from Scott McInnis,” the blog asks.

Colorado Pols reported “well before” the Romanoff story became news, “widespread rumors at the Capitol that ex-gubernatorial candidate ... Josh Penry had been guaranteed appointment as Scott McInnis’ chief of staff, should McInnis win the election.” According to the article, “this was a bone thrown to Penry for pulling out of his race against McInnis last fall.”

With numerous other examples of GOP candidates forced from races by the party, including McInnis in the 2006 Senate primary against Bob Schaffer, it becomes clear that this is business as usual for the Republicans. They even have a “Rule 11,” allowing the National Republican Senatorial Committee to back a candidate before a primary is held.

“I would have beat Udall,” McInnis said later, complaining that his Senatorial candidacy was derailed by “a very small group of people.”

By attempting to escalate the Romanoff story to a “scandal,” Penry exposed himself as the candidate who capitulated to party pressure, whether or not in return for a position. Seeking to damage Romanoff, he managed only to hoist himself by his own petard. This episode hardly projects the kind of judgment necessary to winning political races.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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