It was a rough week for the corruptocracy. White House officials better ho-ho-hold on tight because the sleigh ride isn't going to get any smoother.
On Wednesday, disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill., received a 14-year prison sentence for scheming to sell President Barack Obama's Senate office, along with several other pay-for-play schemes. Blago played the distressed daddy for the federal judge, invoking his young daughters and wife (who held her notoriously foul tongue in check) to bemoan how his "life is in ruins."
How far Blago's fallen from the glory days of 2008, when he was gloating at the prospect of naming a candidate to fill then-President-elect Obama's seat. "I've got this thing, and it's f**king golden," he crowed. All that glitters now, though, are the paparazzi flash bulbs that Blago faces on his perp walks.
Earlier this week, Bill Richardson, former Democratic governor of New Mexico, disgraced former presidential candidate and failed Obama Commerce Secretary nominee, faced new reports of a federal grand jury into his possible violations of campaign finance laws. The funny-money business is tied to an alleged mistress payoff a la disgraced former presidential candidate and Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.
Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reports, investigators are probing how "Richardson's close allies steered more than $2 billion of public money into investment funds run by money managers who in turn agreed to pay millions of dollars in consulting fees to high-profile Democratic fundraisers and other supporters of Richardson."
The star that joined together this little constellation of sleaze? Disgraced U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder and Blago go way back. Holder himself suffered selective amnesia about the relationship during his confirmation hearing. He somehow "forgot" to mention that Blagojevich had appointed him to probe corruption in Illinois casino licensing decisions. State officials had objected to Blago's crony appointment of fundraiser Christopher Kelly to the state Gaming Board. Kelly's business partner was now-convicted felon and shakedown artist Tony Rezko, Obama's former bagman and real-estate fixer.
Holder pocketed $300,000 from Blago to "investigate" and -- surprise, surprise -- concluded that no corruption existed. They stood shoulder to shoulder at a 2004 news conference to make the announcement. But Holder failed to disclose it on his Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, which he signed five days after Blagojevich's arrest in December 2008 for putting Obama's U.S. Senate seat up for sale.
After duping a Senate majority (including 19 Senate Republicans) into approving his AG nomination despite multiple admissions of failure, neglect and sabotage of the rule of law, Holder moved up to perform more cover-ups for Obama's pals. In August 2009, Holder's DOJ announced it was dropping federal corruption charges against Richardson after a yearlong federal probe into pay-to-play allegations involving one of his large political donors and state bond deals.
"It's over. There's nothing. It was killed in Washington," a source close to the investigation told the Associated Press. Even as they tapped Richardson to serve as Obama's first Commerce Secretary, the White House transition team knew about Richardson's pay-to-play scandal involving a California company, CDR Financial Products. FBI and federal prosecutors had launched their probe of CDR's activities in New Mexico in the summer of 2008.
The feds had been digging into a nationwide web of favor-trading between financial firms and politicians overseeing local government bond markets. CDR was tied to a doomed bond deal in Alabama, which, according to Bloomberg News, threatened to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. CDR raked in nearly $1.5 million in fees from a New Mexico state financial agency after donating more than $100,000 to Richardson's efforts to register Hispanic and Native American voters and to pay for expenses at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the news service reported.
The state agency that awarded the money consisted of five Richardson appointees and five members of his gubernatorial cabinet. CDR made contributions both shortly before and after securing consultant work with the state of New Mexico. CDR's president also contributed $29,000 to Obama's presidential campaign. After Holder dropped the case, New Mexico Republicans blasted the lack of transparency in the decisions and the refusal to heed the advice of experienced, non-political prosecutors and FBI investigators.
Mother Jones writer James Ridgeway's comment on the day of Richardson's Commerce Secretary nomination withdrawal proved quite prescient: "It may be premature to say that Obama and his team have too high a tolerance for corruption. But this first self-destruct among his cabinet picks could well prove all the more damaging because it's something they should have seen coming from miles away."
The same applies, of course, to Holder himself -- who admitted at a House hearing that the Operation Fast and Furious scandal under his watch was "flawed," "reckless," "tragic" and deadly." How much longer will America tolerate this reign of error and terror?
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