AP/Huffington Post - The White House faced fresh questions over back-room dealmaking after acknowledging that one of President Barack Obama's top advisers encouraged Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff to apply for an international development job instead of challenging the candidate whom the president favored in a Senate race.
The aide "wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement Thursday. But once the aide learned the former Colorado House Speaker was determined to run against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, Gibbs said, "There was no offer of a job."
Here's the statement in full released by Gibbs on Thursday:
Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition. He filed this application through the Transition on-line process. After the new administration took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel.
Jim Messina called and emailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the US Senate. Months earlier, the President had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.
But Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the Administration, and that ended the discussion. As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.
Romanoff on Wednesday night released a copy of an e-mail in which White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina described three federal international development jobs that might be available to him if he were not challenging Bennet for the Democratic Senate nomination.
An e-mail from Messina to Romanoff obtained by Politico, reveals job descriptions for the three positions said to have been dangled in front of the Colorado Democrat.
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and Caribbean, USAID
As one of five geographic bureaus in the Agency and as a major contributor to the broader U.S. foreign policy objectives in the region, the Bureau for Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) promotes stable democracies, prosperous economies, secure borders, and cooperative neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. The LAC Bureau is taking a proactive approach to maximizing the impact of foreign assistance and continuing its efforts to transform and improve business operations that support Agency-wide reforms. In line with the new Foreign Assistance Framework, priorities include consolidating democracy, fostering growth through free trade
and business opportunities, investing in people through education and health, and enhancing security by promoting alternatives to illegal drug cultivation. Additionally, the Bureau is implementing a number of highly visible programs in the Western Hemisphere, including support for the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA); the Andean Counter-Narcotics Initiative; the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and the recommendations for the Presidential commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.
This position reports to the Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean. The position functions as advisor to the Assistant Administrator, LAC. The position is responsible for oversight and general management of one or more LAC Bureau offices.
Director, Office of Democracy and Governance, USAID
The Director is the chief operations officer of the Office and a principal advisor to senior Bureau and USAID management in defining the scope and objectives of the Agency's and the Administration's initiatives to support democracy and foster good governance. Activities of the Director include oversight for all staffing and personnel functions in the Office, as well as oversight of technical officer recruitment, selection, and placement, and direct supervision of the senior democracy and governance advisors for the Agency. The Director provides program definition, design and oversight, and evaluation for USAID's democracy and good governance programs and serves as a senior advisor in the administration for developing democracy and good governance program strategies. The Director supports democracy and good governance programs in
all parts of the Agency and leads in the development of strategic approaches to democracy support and good governance. The Director represents the Agency at the senior level with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, with senior officials of foreign governments, with senior political officials from host countries, and with senior officials of U.S. implementing organizations. This position reports to the Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict and Human Rights (DCHA).
Director, U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
USTDA was first created as part of USAID through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and made independent in 1991. Their stated mission is to "advance economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries." Unlike Ex-Im , OPIC and other international development agencies, USTDA does not directly finance exports and development. Instead, the agency seeks to achieve its mission by making small grants to fund feasibility studies, reverse trade missions, conferences, trainings, and other technical assistance programs that link U.S. companies to overseas development projects. With a budget of $55.2 million
(FY 2010) and a staff of 78 professionals (48 full-time, 25 contractors and 5 foreign-service nationals), USTDA's success is dependent on being able to seek out new opportunities, leverage its private and government relationships, and find development opportunities for both private business and larger federal foreign assistance/development agencies. A testament of USTDA's success is its ratio of grant dollars spent versus dollars in exports created, which is nearly 1:35. This position requires Senate confirmation.
Gibbs noted on Thursday that Romanoff had applied for a position at the U.S. Agency for International Development during the transition period before Obama took office in January 2009. Romanoff had not addressed the fact that he had applied for a job working in the administration.
According to Gibbs, Messina reached out to Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the U.S. Senate. Months earlier, the President had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.