Not so, says White House

By Thomas Fitzgerald

Inquirer Staff Writer

Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) said yesterday that the White House offered him a federal job in an effort to dissuade him from challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in the state's Democratic primary.

The disclosure came during an afternoon taping of Larry Kane: Voice of Reason, a Sunday news-analysis show on the Comcast Network. Sestak would not elaborate on the circumstances and seemed chagrined after blurting out "yes" to veteran news anchor Kane's direct question.

"Was it secretary of the Navy?" Kane asked.

"No comment," Sestak said.

"Was it [the job] high-ranking?" Kane asked. Sestak said yes, but added that he would "never leave" the Senate race for a deal.

A White House spokesman this morning strongly denied Sestak had been offered yesterday. Before the spokesman issued the denial a senior Pennsylvania Democrat yesterday said Whitye House officials there were angered by Sestak's account.

After yesterday's taping, Sestak said he recalled the White House offer coming in July, as he was preparing to formally announce his Senate candidacy in August. He declined to identify who spoke to him or the job under discussion. Sestak also would not say whether the person who approached him worked for the administration or was an intermediary for the offer.

"I'm not going to say who or how and what was offered," Sestak said in an interview. "I don't feel it's appropriate to go beyond what I said," because the conversation was confidential.

Sestak, 58, a retired Navy admiral, has said that some Pennsylvania Democratic leaders have tried to entice him to drop his campaign with promises of support for other offices in the future. He also has said that Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, urged him to run when Specter was still a Republican, then tried to force him out after Specter switched parties.

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