In case you thought Chiquita and Marc Rich were Eric Holder’s only stumbling blocks on his way to being nominated as Barack Obama’s Attorney General, Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones revealed yet another reason why Senate GOPs might go to town on this nomination.
Her characterization of the Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich pardon as a "minor hiccup" may not hold up after George Lardner Jr’s New York Times op-ed column today, but she had this to say last week about Holder:
Given Holder’s otherwise squeaky-clean reputation and a democratic Congress, that minor hiccup isn’t likely to slow him down. What might give some members of Congress pause, however, is Holder’s record as US Attorney for the District of Columbia during the Clinton administration. If Democrats are looking for a crusader to clean house at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the federal government, Holder might not be their man.
Wow, I certainly wouldn’t want to think there’s yet another reason to reconsider this Holder nomination! Didn’t Kirk Murphy and Looseheadprop provide GOPs on the Senate Judiciary Committee with too much ammunition already about this nominee? What could Stephanie possibly be writing about?
In 1997, I wrote a lengthy story for the Washington City Paper critical of Holder for not doing more to prosecute public corruption in the District, which at the time, was headline news. Marion Barry had recently won another term as mayor after coming out of prison, and had generated a host of good material for an aggressive prosecutor. Yet as I wrote in 1997:
[F]or all the love Holder has engendered in the community as U.S. Attorney, he has had precious little impact on the city’s endemic municipal corruption. Barry has returned to his old tricks, nudging contracts and city jobs to old cronies and new girlfriends…
Holder…has not had a single high-profile D.C. public corruption case since he became U.S. Attorney. By comparison, during his 5-year tenure [former U.S. Attorney Joseph] diGenova successfully prosecuted two deputy mayors and a dozen lower-level city officials. Holder may have had his way with the media and kept the community at bay, but now that he seems to be moving on, people are wondering why he isn’t leaving behind a more honest, or at least more chaste, D.C. government.
Comparing the tenure of the first African-American US Attorney for DC to the record of twelve years of GOP-appointed US Attorneys might not be fair, though. Perhaps there weren’t any investigations that matured to the point where the US Attorney could pursue indictments? Let’s take a look at the list Stephanie assembled in her City Paper piece:
It isn’t for lack of targets. Since Holder was sworn in on Oct. 16, 1993, federal investigators have opened at least a half-dozen major probes of District government fraud and corruption, including investigations of allegations that:
• in 1995 Cora Masters Barry arranged to launder campaign money through the 17-year-old son of her housekeeper to pay cash to her brother Walter;
• in 1995 Korean businessman Yong Yun performed renovation work on the Barrys’ house in exchange for a sweetheart deal on a city lease;
• last year the police department subverted city procurement regulations to give former members of Barry’s security detail city contracts to install a fence and security system at Barry’s home;
• the directors of IPACHI, a now-defunct nonprofit group, misappropriated more than $1 million in federal and District money;
• the executive director of JMC Associates Inc., the bankrupt mental health contractor, used money from city contracts and the Social Security benefits of mentally ill clients to buy fur coats, wedding dresses, and a condo on Martha’s Vineyard;
• the 27-year-old director of Kedar Day School misappropriated city money intended for educating special-education students;
• and that employees of the lottery board were running businesses out of the board’s office and steering contracts to friends of the mayor.
Not one of these cases has resulted in an indictment so far. And the list doesn’t reflect a sickening array of other government-related wrongdoing during Holder’s watch that seems to have gone unpunished, including voter fraud, allegations of widespread corruption at the taxicab commission, allegations of rampant bribe-taking in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and dozens of reports of graft within the public schools.
With Holder serving as US Attorney, public officials in the District of Columbia became flagrant in their law-breaking, and scoffed at attempts to punish them:
One city official practically thumbed her nose at Holder after she was caught holding drivers’ licenses from two different jurisdictions and voting in DC elections even though she actually lived in Maryland. (She voted in a special election that was decided by a single vote.)
Fraudulently registering to vote is a felony in DC. But when the Washington Post confronted her about it, the former taxicab commissioner said brazenly, "Hey, arrest me!" No one did, the woman continued to vote in city elections, and Holder’s office never did a thing about the highly publicized act of lawbreaking.
Pubic officials and elected officeholders attempting to clean up the District’s reputation for corruption were frustrated that Holder wouldn’t move on any prosecutions:
They thought he was depriving the city of some of the much-needed sunshine that can come with a public trial. Holder’s reluctance to pull the trigger on many of the investigations generated by law enforcement in DC ensured that many of those responsible for the city’s dysfunction continued to flourish. (As the former city auditor told me at the time, "No one ever makes the bad guys pay back the money. If you don’t mind a little embarrassment in DC, you can steal to your heart’s content.")
Haven’t we had enough overlooked lawbreaking the past eight years at the Department of Justice? If there was ever a post-Bush department that needed a leader with a reputation for going after the bad guys without fear or favor, DoJ is it. Those feds need a crusader at the helm, someone who everyone trusts to mete out justice fairly and administer the agency with integrity.
Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have entirely too much evidence to make Eric Holder’s confirmation hearings hell for President-Elect Obama. He needs to reconsider this nomination.