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GOP: White House request on Senate bids improper

LOS ANGELES - Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele called yesterday for a "referee" to sort out the matters of two Democratic lawmakers who were urged by the White House to drop their bids for Senate seats.

Posting the party's response to President Barack Obama's weekly address, Steele said the administration had not lived up to its promises of transparent operations in its dealings with Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak and Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

The White House is accused of shady dealings - including promises of government jobs - if the two would drop challenges to Democratic incumbents for Senate seats.

"The president promised transparency. All we have right now is a series of transparent cover-ups. So much for change you can believe in," Steele said in his address.

Steele called for the Justice Department to appoint a referee, in the form of a special investigator or an independent counsel, to look into the matter.

"It's not up to the White House to judge the ethics of their behavior. That right is reserved for the American people, once all the facts are on the table," Steele said.

Sestak was urged by former President Bill Clinton not to run against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in a Democratic primary, at the behest of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Steele also called for Emanuel to resign. Sestak ousted Specter in the primary.

The White House acknowledged Thursday that deputy chief of staff Jim Messina suggested that Romanoff drop his bid against incumbent Michael Bennet, and suggested that he seek one of three possible government jobs. Romanoff declined the offers. Colorado's Democratic primary election is Aug. 10.

While Republicans called for a deeper probe, ethics experts say the Obama administration did nothing wrong.

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