I don’t get it.
Barack Obama’s Attorney General candidate Eric Holder hires two Senate staffers, still working on the public’s dime, to guide him through the Senate nomination process — yet we haven’t heard one word of objection about the clear conflict of interest from the GOP (non)-leadership.
Holder’s handholders are Democrat operatives Ron Weich and Ed Pagano.
Weich is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s chief counsel. His fiscal year 2008 salary subtotal is $81,000-plus through March 31, 2008. (Here’s the record).
Pagano is Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy’s current chief of staff. Through March 31, 2008, he’ll also earn $81,000-plus. (Here’s the record.)
Since when do current, sitting Senate staffers get to shepherd presidential nominees through the confirmation process? Where are the checks and balances on the ability of two top Senate aides to advise Holder at the same time they are expected to assist their bosses in providing independent assessments of their client’s qualifications? The nomination will go through the very Senate Judiciary Committee panel that Pagano’s boss chairs.
Here are some relevant excerpts from the Senate’s standing rules on conflict of interest:
1. A Member, officer, or employee of the Senate shall not receive any compensation, nor shall he permit any compensation to accrue to his beneficial interest from any source, the receipt or accrual of which would occur by virtue of influence improperly exerted from his position as a Member, officer, or employee.
2. No Member, officer, or employee shall engage in any outside business or professional activity or employment for compensation which is inconsistent or in conflict with the conscientious performance of official duties.
…5. (a) No Member, officer, or employee of the Senate compensated at a rate in excess of $25,000 per annum and employed for more than ninety days in a calendar year shall (1) affiliate with a firm, partnership, association, or corporation for the purpose of providing professional services for
compensation; (2) permit that individual’s name to be used by such a firm, partnership, association or corporation; or (3) practice a profession for compensation to any extent during regular office hours of the Senate office in which employed. For the purposes of this paragraph, “professional services”
shall include but not be limited to those which involve a fiduciary relationship.
Is GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s view on this fundamental conflict of interest the same as Eeyore the jackass’s? “No matter.”
Jennifer Rubin at PJM adds:
A Capitol Hill insider had this to say:
I can’t think of another example of a current Senate staffer facilitating a nominee’s confirmation. If the Senate is really conducting an independent review of the nominee, doesn’t this arrangement undermine it? Would you ever let a judge’s legal clerk act as the lawyer for a defendant? That’s why we have conflict of interest restrictions for lawyers.
It only adds to irony that it is Holder’s own alleged conflicts of interest which will be at issue in his hearing.
As for President-elect Obama this will only add to the sense that the “Chicago Way” — an embrace of questionable characters and an aversion to real reform — remains his Achilles heel. And should Holder fail to get confirmed, or emerge so damaged from the hearing to be of reduced stature and influence, the Obama team will have to explain how yet another nominee with ethical concerns made it through its vetting process. The question looms: Is the Obama team tone deaf when it comes to ethics?
Another question looms: Is the GOP leadership dumb and blind?