The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a plaintiff in the successful 1993 lawsuit to open the meetings and records of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care task force, today criticized Barack Obama for selecting Eric Holder as his Attorney General nominee.
According to NLPC President Peter Flaherty, “Holder is not ethically qualified to serve as Attorney General. His track record is not one of independence or objectivity. Instead, he has been guided by politics and self-interest.”
On December 21, 1994, federal Judge Royce Lamberth, who presided over the litigation to open the health care task force, asked Holder, who at the time was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate Ira Magaziner for possible perjury and criminal contempt of court. He also suggested that Attorney General Janet Reno should appoint an independent counsel to investigate.
Reno announced on March 3, 1995 that she would not appoint an independent prosecutor. On August 3, 1995 Eric Holder announced that he, too, would not prosecute Magaziner.
Magaziner, who headed up the task force, asserted to plaintiffs in a March 3, 1993 statement that no outsiders, or non-government employees, were taking part in the task force. When task force documents were later produced, it was obvious that dozens of outsiders had taken part. It was not a small point. The presence of outsiders would trigger the Federal Advisory Committee Act, requiring that task force meetings be opened to the public. Magaziner’s claim stood for several months. Magaziner and other participants in the task force took no action to expose it or to correct the record.
An example of an outsider was Lois Quam, a vice-president of United Health Care Corporation, a for-profit managed care provider. United Health Care stood to financially benefit from the decisions of the task force, not to mention the reams of inside information to which she would become privy. Quam’s participation also helped fuel a controversy directly involving Hillary. The Clintons were investors in a closely held limited partnership called ValuePartners 1, which held a block of United Health Care stock. The partnership shorted a number of health-related stocks including United Health Care. At the time of his death, deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster was in the process of putting the Clinton’s health care stocks into a blind trust, a task not completed until July 26, 1994.
At the time, NLPC accused the Clinton administration of a cover-up. Both Reno and Holder were appointed by Clinton, and Reno owed her job to Hillary. Additionally, the Washington Post reported in January of 1995 that Holder was under consideration by Clinton for appointment to a federal judgeship.
Flaherty concluded, “When Reno said she would not appoint a special prosecutor, it was even more appropriate for the case to be handled by the U.S. Attorney with jurisdiction. That was Holder and he should have acted. Holder’s failure to pursue Magaziner made a mockery of the law.”
NLPC promotes ethics in public life, and sponsors the Government Integrity Project.