Sestak response

The Sestak campaign just put out this statement:

“Last summer, I received a phone call from President Clinton.  During the course of the conversation, he expressed concern over my prospects if I were to enter the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate and the value of having me stay in the House of Representatives because of my military background.  He said that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had spoken with him about my being on a Presidential Board while remaining in the House of Representatives. I said no.  I told President Clinton that my only consideration in getting into the Senate race or not was whether it was the right thing to do for Pennsylvania working families and not any offer. The former President said he knew I’d say that, and the conversation moved on to other subjects.

“There are many important challenges facing Pennsylvania and the rest of the country.  I intend to remain focused on those issues and continue my fight on behalf of working families.”

White House: Clinton made job overture to Sestak

The White House has just released a legal memo saying former President Bill Clinton is the one who approached Congressman Joe Sestak about a possible administration job, in order to entice him to drop his primary bid against Senator Arlen Specter.

At first glance, this information seems bad for Sestak. The White House says he was never offered the Secretary of the Navy job. Yet Sestak continually refused to shoot down the notion that this was the proposition he received. Here’s a transcript from the initial February interview with Larry Kane:

“Were you ever offered a job to get out of this race?”

“Yes.”

“Was it Navy Secretary?”

“No comment.”

Later on:  “So you were offered a job by someone in the White House?” “Yes.”

And after that Sestak refused to say anything more. Which is understandable — but still, he let people ask again and again whether he was offered the Secretary of the Navy job, and he never said no. This post is much more high-profile than the Senior Branch Advisory Board position that was apparently floated. And also, President Clinton is not “someone in the White House.” So it seems either way, Sestak – who says again and again on the stump that he’s all about accountability -  has some questions to answer in the coming days.

Here’s the memo:

Another goofy sports bet

Thanks to an amazing run of Pennsylvania sports success, Governor Rendell has been able to make several goofy  bets with elected officials from other states in the past two years.

(Though, as my friend Jimmy Vielkind pointed out in the New York Observer last fall, Rendell chickened out on a bet with David Paterson that would have involved skirt wearing.)

He’s lined another one up for the Stanley Cup finals. If the Flyers win, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has to show up in Philadelphia wearing a Flyers sweater. Rendell would do the same in Chicago, if the Blackhawks win their first cup in fifty years. The loser also has to do some community service in a food bank.

Here’s the release:
Harrisburg – Residents of a homeless shelter in either Philadelphia or Chicago will sample signature food items from the other city, through a friendly wager between Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on the National Hockey League (NHL) championship. A food bank in the victorious city will also receive free labor from the losing governor.

The Philadelphia Flyers visit the Chicago Blackhawks for the first game of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals series on Saturday. The championship will move to Philadelphia for Game 3 next Wednesday.

Governors Rendell and Quinn have agreed that the losing chief executive will visit the NHL championship city and don the sweater of the winning team. While there, he will visit a homeless shelter and distribute a culinary classic from his hometown. If the Blackhawks win, Governor Rendell will hand out Philadelphia cheese steaks in the Windy City. If the Flyers prevail, Quinn will bring Chicago-style pizza to a shelter in the City of Brotherly Love.

Still wearing the winning opposition team’s colors, the governor will proceed to a food bank and spending several hours working there.

“I’m sure Governor Quinn will look great wearing an orange and black sweater, and I know folks at one of our homeless shelters will enjoy dining on pizza the way only Chicagoans know how to make it,” Governor Rendell said. “I am confident the Flyers can keep the Stanley Cup in Pennsylvania for the second straight year. But no matter which team tastes victory, it will be a terrific treat for some citizens in the championship town.”

Philadelphia captured the Eastern Conference title over the Montreal Canadiens last week, while Chicago took the Western Conference finals against the San Jose Sharks.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the NHL title last year.

Obama: job offer explanation coming “shortly”

President Obama was asked about the Sestak job offer at this afternoon’s press conference, but he didn’t provide much of an answer. “There will be an official response shortly,” he said, according to Fox News. “I can assure the public that nothing improper took place.”

Meantime, former Bush aide Karl Rove insists the issue has legs.  “Either Joe Sestak is lying and he was not offered a position in the administration in return for getting out of the primary,” he recently said, according to an LA Times blog.  “You know he’s a liar, in which case not worthy of public service. Or, he’s telling the truth, in which case somebody inside the White House committed a felony.”

Sestak has consistently refused to say anything else about the offer — but is promising to cooperate with any investigation that may take place.

The question of the day…

…for Pennsylvania political observers: will President Obama be asked a question about the possible Sestak job offer today? And if so, what will he say?

Obama is holding his first press conference in what seems like months today, and the Sestak offer has been steadily gaining buzz ever since the Congressman won last week’s Democratic Senate nomination. Sestak was asked about the offer on Meet the Press, and now a group of Senate Republicans are calling for a special prosecutor to look into the matter. Even Governor Rendell says Sestak or the White House needs to come clean — so if Obama speaks about the issue, question 2 is whether Sestak will open up more, as well.

The presser is at 12:45. We shall see!

New Corbett ad

The Corbett campaign has a new commercial out.

(Is it just me, or are the music and sound effects in the background jarringly loud and distracting, compared to the narrator?)

The ad says Corbett has “returned enough money to taxpayers to pay for his entire department.”  An April story written by Capitolwire’s Laura Olson verified that claim, which Corbett also made during this year’s House and Senate budget hearings.

On with the recount!

Former Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel is not conceding the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination. He’ll let a recount proceed, saying it’s “in the best interest of our political system.” Here’s the full statement:

Pennsylvania election law provides for an automatic recount in elections when there is less than .5% of the vote separating candidates. It appears, based on unofficial results, the Democratic Primary Election for Lieutenant Governor is within the margin qualifying for a legally mandated recount. I have maintained since election night that before taking a position on proceeding with a recount, the first count needed to be completed with all votes being counted and tallied properly. It is my understanding that nearly 4,000 absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, the majority of them from the greater Philadelphia area. State law provides for an automatic recount to ensure that Pennsylvania elections respect the highest principles of our democracy. In that spirit, and out of respect to the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who placed their trust in me this election, I believe a recount is in the best interest of our political system and we look forward to participating in the process as it moves forward.

Grand Jury “appalled” by Capitol culture

The Grand Jury that spent two years listening to testimony about legislative corruption has issued a scathing report calling for sweeping changes in Harrisburg.

The report charges the “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers with putting personal gains ahead of serving constituents.

The jurors say they’re “appalled” by the amount of staffers assigned to state representatives and senators. The report quotes testimony from a former House Republican staffer who conducted a study that found only 289 of the caucus’475 staffers were actually needed to conduct legislative work.

In addition to shrinking staff, the Grand Jury recommends routine independent audits of legislative spending, the elimination of the per diem payments lawmakers receive when they’re in Harrisburg, and legislative term limits.

The jurors also say Republican and Democratic caucuses should combine their printing, technology and HR staffs.

Here’s the full report. It’s worth the read.

Democratic L-G race on track for a recount

Former Philadelphia Controller Jonathan Saidel still hasn’t conceded the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination to Representative Scott Conklin.

Conklin leads Saidel by 4,202 votes, which is within the half-percent margin of error for a recount.

The Department of State will request a recount on Thursday, unless Saidel concedes. But his spokesman, Marty Marks, says it’s too early to make that decision. “The process right now hasn’t even been completed with the first vote, let alone a recount vote,” he said.  “So we’re waiting to see how the first count ends up. It hasn’t been certified yet. It hasn’t gone through that process. We understand there might be some absentee votes that need to be counted.”

The recount would need to finish by June 8th.

Conklin spokesman Tor Michaelssays Saidel has the right to keep fighting, but if there is a recount, “it will just reconfirm what we already know.”

Democratic nominee Dan Onorato’s spokesman, Brian Herman, says either Saidel or Conklin would be a “strong” running mate, and that the Allegheny County Executive supports Saidel’s decision either way.

A third candidate, Philadelphia Judge Doris Smith-Ribner, won just under thirty percent of the vote, and likely kept Saidel, the party’s endorsed nominee, from winning the votes he needed to top Conklin.

Santorum: HCR will “destroy freedom”; Sestak “a loose cannon”

Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum doesn’t parse words in his criticism of President Obama.

Speaking at the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg today, he said Obama’s landmark health care overhaul has the potential to “destroy freedom.”

Santorum is considering a run for president, and has visited Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in recent months.

Santorum also criticized Obama’s foreign policy during the speech, saying the president is doing “worse than nothing” to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  He says in both politics and basketball, the southpaw president has only one move – left – and that Joe Sestak’s association with Obama policies will hurt the Democratic nominee this fall.

Santorum argued Sestak is a weaker candidate than people realize, saying, “Joe Sestak ran one good commercial, and that’s what beat Arlen Specter. He ran a terrible campaign. And he’s out of the box right now talking about how Barack Obama bribed him. The guy’s a loose cannon, and he’s someone who is an unabashed, unavowed Obamaphile.”

The shot garnered a response from the Sestak campaign. Spokeman Jonathan Dworkin: “Senator Santorum’s credibility on how to win Pennsylvania elections is shattered since his resounding rejection by the voters in 2006. Given that independent ratings have shown that Pat Toomey is even more conservative than Santorum, he should be more cautious about making predictions.”

The speech and following Q-and-A covered many topics, including — you guessed it — gay marriage. Santorum warned same-sex unions would have dire social consequences.

He also lashed out against a push for same-sex marriage, saying it goes against “natural law” and “How God made us as a people.”

Santorum says he’ll make up his mind on whether or not to run for president after this fall’s election.

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