Even as Attorney General Eric Holder has defanged the Public Integrity section of the Justice Department, and snuffed out prosecutions of members of Congress, he claimed today in Paris that “combating corruption is one of the highest priorities of the Department of Justice.”
Ironically, Holder’s remarks were delivered in support of international efforts to combat bribery. Holder bragged:
U.S. law enforcement has pursued bribe payers of all stripes: large corporations and small companies; powerful CEOs and low-level sales agents; U.S. companies and foreign issuers; citizens and foreign nationals; direct payers and intermediaries.
If Holder can go after “low-level sales agents,” surely he can see the legal and moral imperative of probing White House staff members and a former President who sought to get Rep. Joseph Sestak (D-PA) to drop his primary challenge to Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in return for a high administration position.
Of course, it was Sestak himself who started all this. When he was running against Washington, his accusation that he was offered a job fit his narrative as an outsider. Now that he has defeated Specter, he’s apparently less of an outsider and all is forgiven. The only problem is that he accused the White House of what may be a crime, which is not like a personal slight that can be forgiven and forgotten. Rather, bribery is an offense against society.
As Holder speechified today:
Put simply, corruption undermines the promise of democracy. It imperils development, stability, and faith in our markets. And it weakens the rule of law.
The White House story, put out on Friday by White House Counsel (and former Obama personal attorney) Robert Bauer, seemed contrived. The purported involvement of President Bill Clinton and the assertion that the “job” was to be nonpaying, seemed calculated to defuse the controversy, although it may be having the opposite effect.
Presumably, the participants communicated before the White House statement. So that the public can draw its own conclusions about whether it is believable, Sestak should disclose all his contacts with the White House and any other party regarding this matter since the primary date.
But it would not absolve Holder of his responsibility to act, preferably by appointing an independent counsel. The possible involvement of one current President and his staff, and one former President (who lost his law license for lying to a grand jury) requires nothing less for the result to be credible.
Holder is already being accused of being soft on corruption. According to a March 15 article in the Daily Beast by former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon:
…current and former department officials fear the department under Attorney General Eric Holder is mostly out of the business—at least for now—of bringing criminal charges against corrupt federal lawmakers and other powerful government officials in Washington.
In January, Holder announced in a two-sentence press release that the Justice Department had ended its investigation of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), which began four years earlier after NLPC filed a 500-page Complaint with the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. The Complaint detailed how Mollohan had gone from being broke, weighed down by credit card debt, to becoming a multi-millionaire in a few short years. Mollohan, an Appropriations subcommittee chairman, earmarked hundred of millions to “nonprofit” groups controlled by business partners and campaign contributors.
Prosecutors and the FBI poured an enormous amount of resources into the investigation and a grand jury was reportedly convened in West Virginia. Although we were disappointed with the pace of the probe, we always expected Mollohan to be indicted. Holder’s two-sentence press release cited no reason why the investigation was closed, but it came just weeks after Mollohan voted for Obama’s health care plan. Holder gave Mollohan a pass, but the voters did not. Mollohan was defeated in a Democratic primary on May 11 by an opponent who made corruption the centerpiece of his campaign.
Holder set the tone soon after his confirmation when he announced that former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) would not be retried for failing to report gifts from lobbyists on his disclosure forms. His conviction had been thrown out for prosecutorial misconduct that had nothing to do with the actual merits of the case.
Holder said today:
As I speak, a corrupt official somewhere is enjoying undeserved and illegal proceeds. He may be driving a brand-new luxury car. She may be filling her off-shore bank account with tainted cash. They may be traveling first-class on all-expenses-paid holidays.
Holder is no doubt right. It’s too bad that the corrupt official might be a member of the U.S. Congress.