Kansas City, Mo. The Bush administration asked for alternate candidates for U.S. attorney for Kansas last year shortly after Phill Kline's name was submitted, an aide to Sen. Pat Roberts said.
Kline, a former state representative and congressional candidate now seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general, said the aide's statement is false.
A White House spokesman wasn't available for comment and did not immediately return a telephone message.
Leroy Towns, chief of staff for Roberts, R-Kan., made the statement during an interview Friday with The Associated Press.
"We were told early on that the White House questioned his qualifications and said he was not up to the standards of the other U.S. attorneys that they had asked for," Towns said.
Kline, had been recommended to President Bush by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., in March 2001. Kline said he had both Kansas senators' support.
But he withdrew from consideration for U.S. attorney last Sept. 18. He said at the time he was considering other political opportunities and in light of the terrorist attacks one week earlier, "Washington now has other priorities other than nominees for U.S. attorney, and understandably so."
On Friday, Kline told the AP, "I withdrew on my own consideration to run for attorney general. Anything to the contrary is false."
Kline also suggested reporters contact the White House.
In addition, he said he did not know whether Democratically controlled Senate Judiciary Committee would have accepted his nomination.
Kline told The Kansas City Star he never received any indication from the White House his qualifications were an issue. He let his Kansas law license lapse in November 1999 but renewed it in January 2001.
However, Towns said within two months of Kline's nomination, the White House had voiced concerns and requested the senators recommend two other potential nominees.
"We would have been very surprised at that point, had Kline been nominated," Towns said.
Brownback and Roberts in May 2001 wrote the White House to say while Kline remained their first choice, they also recommended Jim Flory, who served as the office's acting U.S. attorney during part of 2001, and Paul Morrison, the longtime Johnson County prosecutor.
Brownback declined to comment. He has said Kline would have made an outstanding U.S. attorney and he recently endorsed Kline for state attorney general. Kline's primary opponent in the Republican primary for the office is state Sen. David Adkins, R-Leawood.
After Kline announced his withdrawal, Brownback in November submitted another Kansas candidate, Eric Melgren, a Wichita lawyer and a longtime friend, for the job. Bush formally nominated him Feb. 8 and the Senate unanimously confirmed him a month later.
Allies of Adkins are making the questions an issue in the campaign for the GOP attorney general nomination. They say if Kline was unacceptable for the U.S. attorney job, then he is equally unqualified to be Kansas' next attorney general.
Kline fired back that Adkins would have been unlikely to get the U.S. attorney job himself, given his 1994 ethics violation for his work as a lawyer in an estate settlement case.
The family of a woman who died was upset Adkins charged $1,134 in fees to the woman's estate for his work in settling her affairs; they thought Adkins would handle the estate for free. Adkins received an informal admonition from the Kansas Supreme Court, the least serious disciplinary action.
Adkins responded: "Two years after the incident that I self-reported, I was named the outstanding young lawyer in Kansas by the Kansas Bar Association, which is just one indication of the professional credentials that I've continued to maintain since graduating from law school."
Also in the GOP race is Charles McAtee, a Topeka lawyer.