Finally, we're learning what Congressman Joe Sestak was talking about in February when he said that the White House had offered him a job in exchange for dropping out of his Senate primary race against Arlen Specter. According to the Times, Rahm Emanuel, using Bill Clinton as an intermediary because he knows Sestak well, and because he's just a charming bastard tried to offer Sestak an appointment as an unpaid member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
Emanuel reportedly decided against a paid gig because he wanted Sestak to keep his House seat. As evidence of how poorly planned this all was, though, the White House later discovered that Sestak couldn't serve on the Board and in Congress at the same time, either. It's unclear whether Sestak turned down the offer before or after the White House came to this realization, but we imagine he was never really interested to begin with. Seriously, Rahm, you're asking him to give up on a fairly good shot at becoming a senator, and all you can guarantee in return is an unpaid advisory position? We're shocked he didn't jump at the opportunity.
Update: Here's how White House Counsel Robert Bauer puts it in his just-released report:
We found that, as the Congressman has publicly and accurately stated, options for Executive Branch service were raised with him. Efforts were made in June and July of 2009 to determine whether Congressman Sestak would be interested in service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board, which would avoid a divisive Senate primary, allow him to retain his seat in the House, and provide him with an opportunity for additional service to the public in a high-level advisory capacity for which he was highly qualified. The advisory positions discussed with Congressman Sestak, while important to the work of the administration, would have been uncompensated.
White House staff did not discuss these options with Congressman Sestak. The White House Chief of Staff enlisted the support of former President Clinton who agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak the options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board. Congressman Sestak declined the suggested alternative, remaining committed to his Senate candidacy.
As far as any illegality goes, there was none.
There have been numerous, reported instances in the past when prior Administrations both Democratic and Republican, and motivated by the same goals discussed alternative paths to service for qualified individuals also considering campaigns for public office. Such discussions are fully consistent with the relevant law and ethical requirements.