Attorney General Eric Holder Vulnerable To Perception Of Being Cozy With Local D.C. Officials

11/17/2011 01:20 pm ET
  • The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials living in the nation's capital usually don't engage much with local District of Columbia politics. But U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is among the exceptions.

In fact, he's on record saying he voted for Vincent Gray for mayor: "I think he's going to be a great mayor and I look forward to continuing that relationship." (Holder's long-term local voting record is less than stellar, however.)

As Washington City Paper's Loose Lips points out, the nation's top justice official could be put in an awkward position depending on how the course of federal investigations into Gray and other local D.C. politicians play out.

While there's no reason to believe Holder, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and occasionally mentioned mayoral candidate, "would try to tip the scales of a federal investigation into District politics," Loose Lips says "if you were trying to scrub the system of any and all appearances of conflicts of interest, some experts in government ethics say, you probably wouldn't want Holder to be in charge of the people investigating his buddies."

Gray's 2010 campaign has been under investigation by local, congressional and federal authorities for its hiring practices. A minor mayoral candidate, Sulaimon Brown, has alleged that members of Gray's campaign paid him to disparage incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty and promised him a job in Gray's administration. However, a House oversight committee investigation did not find "direct evidence" that showed Brown was promised a job.

Besides his support of Gray during the campaign, which included a $500 donation, Holder is also tied to embattled D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D), whose 2008 campaign has been under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office and local elections officials. (At the time, Brown's campaign benefitted from a $1,000 contribution from the law firm Holder was working at, according to City Paper. Brown also praised a Washington Nationals' ownership bid that included Holder as a minority investor.)

Kwame Brown's campaign is accused of campaign finance irregularities that involve the chairman's brother, Che.

As Loose Lips points out, Holder was criticized for being lax on municipal corruption during his tenure as U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration.

A spokesman for the current U.S. attorney, Ron Machen, tells City Paper that "prosecutorial decisions" are made at the local level.