One of the members of the team presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama has assigned to hunt for a vice-president is Eric Holder, and a critic notes that the appointment is a “clear, serious mistake.”
In a commentary published in the New York Post, longtime political activist Dick Morris and Eileen McGann say the Illinois senator, with the appointment, will be “stuck with the Marc Rich mess.”
Time magazine lists the Rich case as one of the “10 Most Notorious Presidential Pardons” ever.
While he served as deputy attorney general, Holder was the “key person who made the pardon of Marc Rich possible in the final hours of the Clinton presidency,” wrote Morris.
Rich, a financier, in 1983 was indicted for evading more than $48 million in taxes, and accused of more than four dozen counts of tax fraud. He also was accused of running illegal oil deals with Iran during the 1979-1980 time period when Americans were held hostage in Iran.
“During his last week in office, President Bill Clinton pardoned Rich, who had fled the U.S. during his prosecution and was residing in Switzerland. Clinton’s 11th-hour move, along with pardons of his half-brother, Roger, and former business partner Susan McDougal, outraged Republicans and Democrats alike,” the magazine said. “The Rich pardon sparked an investigation into whether it was bought by the hefty donations Rich’s ex-wife, Denise, had given to the Clintons and the Democrats.”
However, in the end, investigators did not generate enough evidence to indict Clinton, Time said.
Now comes the decision by Obama to have Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, as well as longtime Washington insider Jim Johnson and former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder look for VP possibilities.
Morris explained the link between Holder and Rich in more detail.
“Rich wanted a pardon, and he retained Jack Quinn, former counsel to the president, to lobby his old boss. It was Holder who had originally recommended Quinn to one of Rich’s advisers, although he claims that he did not know the identity of the client,” Morris wrote. “And he gave substantive advice to Quinn along the way. According to Quinn’s notes that were produced to Congress, Holder told Quinn to take the pardon application ‘straight to the White House’ because ‘the timing is good.'”
“And once the pardon was granted, Holder sent his congratulations to Quinn,” Morris wrote.
“If ever there was a person who did not deserve a presidential pardon, it’s Marc Rich,” Morris wrote.
“In 2002, a congressional committee reported that Holder was a ‘willing participant in the plan to keep the Justice Department from knowing about and opposing’ the Rich pardon,” he said. “It is one thing to reach back to Obama’s pastor to raise doubts about his values. But it is quite another to scrutinize the record of his first appointee.
“It couldn’t be a bigger mistake.”
The Associated Press reported the Clinton-Rich scandal left Holder in the middle of a congressional investigation.
The report said Rich didn’t even qualify under Justice Department guidelines, which prohibit requests for pardons until five years after the completion of a sentence.
The AP said members of Congress noted the contributions from Denise Rich of $450,000 to Clinton’s library foundation, $1.1 million to the Democrat Party and another $100,000 to the U.S. Senate campaign launched by Hillary Clinton, along with more than a dozen visits to the White House.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., said then that the situation seemed “sleazy.”
Since then, however, Holder has rehabilitated his name. The ABA Journal has speculated that Holder is considered a likely candidate for attorney general if Obama wins the Oval Office.