Republicans are taking after Eric Holder’s work for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, while Democrats dismiss any serious connection. Reports the Los Angeles Times:
As Eric H. Holder Jr. gears up to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee today for his confirmation as attorney general, some Republicans say they will question him aggressively about whether his ties to Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich are more extensive than Holder has acknowledged.
GOP staffers investigating Holder’s background say that although he has downplayed his connections to Blagojevich, new information suggests Holder did legal work for Blagojevich on an investigation into the controversial award of a state casino gambling license by the Illinois Gaming Board.
The Republicans said they have obtained a letter Holder wrote to the board requesting records on the casino license. Holder did not bill the state for any work. Even so, the GOP senators want to know the details of that arrangement, and why Holder initially left out any mention of it — and of his relationship to the now-disgraced Illinois governor — in the disclosure form that he was required to file with the committee for his confirmation.
“I have every anticipation that the issue will be talked about at length during the confirmation hearings,” said a staffer working on it with the Senate GOP leadership. “It is certainly an issue that has not been fully aired or answered.”
Nick Shapiro, an Obama transition spokesman, said Holder was chosen “because of his extensive experience in investigating and prosecuting corrupt public officials,” and that he was “prepared to follow the facts wherever they led and make a report to the people of the state. Holder’s firm never signed an official retainer agreement with the state because the state could not resolve which agency would actually employ the firm and because of a contractual issue unrelated to the investigation itself.”
In 2004, Blagojevich tapped Holder as a special investigator for the Illinois Gaming Board, which had approved a controversial license for a casino to be built in Rosemont, Ill.
Responding to rumors of corruption and mob connections, Blagojevich promised a full, independent investigation. At a March 2004 news conference, he introduced Holder as the state’s special investigator into the matter. But the investigation was canceled almost immediately, after some state officials objected to Holder’s appointment.
Last month, the controversy resurfaced when Blagojevich was arrested on corruption charges. About a week later, Holder submitted his background report, which was supposed to contain all of his business relationships in the eight years he had spent in private practice since he left the Justice Department at the end of the Clinton administration.
When the Senate committee’s ranking minority member, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), asked Holder why he had not mentioned it, Holder said the deal had never actually “materialized” and that he had “never performed substantive work on the matter.”
However, in the cases of both Holder and Timothy Geithner the GOP lacks not only a knock-out punch, but unity within the caucus. Reports The Hill:
But the GOP has not been able to maintain the same unified front as Democrats. Their efforts to raise serious concerns about Geithner and Holder have been undermined by Hatch, who is also the second-ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Hatch said he would vote for Holder as well as voice support for Geithner.
Others will break ranks too.
Still, even if the Republicans fail to derail either nomination, they might provide some entertaining theater. And evoke some illuminating answers from the nominees along the way.
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