Specter Says Nobody Told Him They Would Clear Democratic Primary Field for Him

March 11, 2010 - 7:15 PM
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) told CNSNews.com that he did not ask anybody to clear the field of rival candidates in Pennsylvania's Democratic U.S. Senate primary and that nobody told him that they would do so.

In this Feb. 23, 2009, file photo, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., right, talks with Vice President Joe Biden, in the East Room of the White House in Washington after President Barack Obama made remarks to open the Fiscal Responsibility Summit. Specter, announced, Tuesday, April 28, 2009, that he is switching from the Republican to Democratic party. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) told CNSNews.com on Wednesday that he did not ask anybody to clear the field of rival candidates in Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary and that nobody told him they would do so.

Specter is now running in that primary against Rep. Joe Sestak (D.-Pa.), who repeatedly has asserted that last summer he was offered -- and declined -- a high-level job in the Obama administration in exchange for not running against Specter, who at that time had recently switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, giving Democrats what was then a 60-vote majority in the Senate.

Specter also told CNSNews.com he believes Sestak was raising the allegation to “change the subject” from the question of whether he paid campaign employees less than the minimum wage—a practice that Specter characterized as something that would be “a violation of state and federal law.”



In an interview with Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC March 9, Specter claimed that the White House offering Sestak a position in the administration is a crime and that Sestak should provide names and dates to back up his story.
 
“Well, you're telling me that, if Joe Sestak is correct, if he can prove that this was actually offered, that that is a bribe and becomes a legal issue against whoever in the White House offered that?"  Mitchell asked Specter.

“There is a specific federal statute which makes it a bribe to make an offer for a public office,” Specter responded. “And when I was district attorney, if somebody came and told me that, I would say, well, name names, name dates, name places. That's a very, very serious charge. It's a big black smear without the specification, but I'm telling you, it is a federal crime punishable by jail. And anybody who wants to say that ought to back it up.”

On Wednesday, CNSNews.com asked Specter: “Rep. Sestak has said that the White House offered him a high-level position in the administration if he would leave the race, the primary race, against you. Did the White House promise you that they would clear the field for you if you ran as a Democrat?”

“As I have said on many occasions in the past, nobody said they’d clear the field, and I didn’t ask anybody to,” Specter responded. “I think Congressman Sestak is trying to get some political advantage and to change the subject from the fact that he hasn’t paid his campaign employees the minimum wage, which is a violation of state and federal law. I think he is just trying to change the subject.”
 
CNSNews.com followed up: “Do you think he is not telling the truth about being offered a high-level position in the administration?”

“I’ve really answered the question,” said Specter.

Sestak issued a statement to CNSNews.com responding to Specter’s allegations.
 
"How silly,” Sestak said. “After 30 years as Pennsylvania's Republican Senator, with an economy that's devastated, a health care system that's broken and two wars overseas, rather than talking about how to help working families of Pennsylvania, all Senator Specter can speak about is my wonderful staff who work hard and sacrifice to change Washington's policies and politics.
 
“People are tired of those in the Washington establishment who have been there too long, like Senator Specter, who will do anything--from switching parties to negative dishonest attacks--to keep their jobs in Washington rather than focus on the real needs of Americans in Pennsylvania," said Sestak.
 
Specter’s campaign issued a press release last month attacking Sestak for the salaries he pays his relatives working on the campaign compared to what he pays other staffers. "According to a review of his official Federal Election Commission reports, Cong. Joe Sestak pays his brother and two sisters that work for his campaign an average of $3,685 a month, but pays the staffers not related to him an average of just $1,461 a month--well below the region’s livable wage scale," said the release.
 
Specter’s press secretary was not available for comment.
 
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs has been asked repeatedly at recent White House press briefings about Sestak’s claim that he was offered a high-ranking administration job in exchange for not running against Specter and has repeatedly responded by saying he needs to look into it. At Thursday's White House briefing, Gibbs said he did not have any additional information on Sestak’s claim “today.”
 
Here is a  transcript of CNSNews.com's conversation with Sen. Arlen Specter:
 
CNSNews.com: “Rep. Sestak has said that the White House offered him a high-level position in the administration if he would leave the race, the primary race, against you. Did the White House promise you that they would clear the field for you if you ran as a Democrat?”
 
Sen. Arlen Specter: “As I have said on many occasions in the past, nobody said they’d clear the field, and I didn’t ask anybody to. I think Congressman Sestak is trying to get some political advantage and to change the subject from the fact that he hasn’t paid his campaign employees the minimum wage, which is a violation of state and federal law. I think he is just trying to change the subject.”
 
CNSNews.com: “Do you think he is not telling the truth about being offered a high-level position in the administration?”
 
Sen. Specter: “I’ve really answered the question.”