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Eric Holder: the $2 Million Nominee

Here’s an interesting tidbit from yesterday’s Legal Times: Attorney General-designate Eric Holder last week revealed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he earned more than $2.1 million in 2008 as a partner at Covington & Burling. That’s even better than the average partner at the firm, who earns a measly $1.175 million. And it soars high above the $186,000 salary Holder would get if he’s confirmed as attorney general.

2009 is projected to look even better, even if Holder is no longer at the firm, Legal Times reports. Holder expects to rake in $2.5 million in deferred compensation, some other work he did at the firm this year, and a severance payment of $1.3 million. (That’s severance for quitting?!)

Holder listed his net worth at $5.7 million.

How did Holder make all this money at the firm? By representing huge corporations when they got into trouble. As I’ve reported before, Holder’s clients at Covington included the National Football League, the pharmaceutical giant Merck, the big banana Chiquita Brands, UBS Financial Services and Bank of America. He’d also registered as a lobbyist for Global Crossing and other companies.

Having earned millions of dollars defending the world’s wealthiest corporations doesn’t make Eric Holder unqualified to be attorney general; one could argue that having been both a prosecutor and a defender, he knows how both sides work and can be particularly effective.

On the other hand, it does underscore the circles he travels in and who he might be inclined to do favors for in the future.

I didn’t originally pay much attention to Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich pardon, having taken his excuse that he just wasn’t paying all that much attention himself on face value; but I was wrong. As Eric Lichtblau and David Johnston at the NY Times and Glenn Greenwald at Salon, among others, have all pointed out, Holder was far more directly involved in directing and encouraging Rich’s lawyer, Jack Quinn, in his efforts to win the unprecedented pardon for his fugitive client. If Quinn hadn’t been a wealthy, well-connected, highly influential Washington Democratic lawyer and friend, Holder would have been unlikely to suggest him for the role of Rich’s lawyer, and then make repeated expressions of support and efforts on his behalf, as George Lardner, Jr. a former Washington Post reporter and now an associate at the Center for the Study of the Presidency documented back in November[ in a NY Times op-ed.

](http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/22/opinion/22lardner.html?_r=1)

Like so many other lawyers in Washington, Quinn was a “public servant” — as a lawyer to Al Gore, and then Clinton’s White House counsel. (Holder reportedly talked to Quinn about his desire to be AG to Gore at that time.) And like so many others in Washington, after making those critical contacts he abandoned public service and took them to the new lobbying firm he created in 1996.

Greenwald, who apparently still supports Holder’s nomination, put it this way: “Eric Holder swung his doors wide open for Marc Rich because Jack Quinn was a highly influential power-broker in Democratic Party circles and was a former and quite possibly future colleague of Holder’s.” Richard Cohen of the Washington Post adds about the not-so-tiny-mistake: “It suggests that Holder, whatever his other qualifications, could not say no to power.”

Maybe we should just brush all of this off and accept that this is how Washington works. But we’ve seen the damage done by a series of attorneys general over the last eight years who let politics influence the Justice Department. If Americans voted for change, then should the Marc Rich incident — and the apparent sway held by wealth, power and influence over Holder, who has been a part of that world for the past eight years at his law firm — be swept away so easily?

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