Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Senator Domenici Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

Wednesday afternoon, Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico became the fourth Class II Republican Senator to announce his retirement from the upper chamber since the Republicans lost the majority in both houses in the Great Republican Rout of 2006™. Wayne Allard of Colorado, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John Warner of Virginia have previously announced that they will not seek reelection in 2008.

Lets revisit recent history and make sure we view the Domenici retirement through the appropriate lens, shall we?

(keep reading)

Domenici announces the end of his long career under a cloud of scandal and possible future criminal indictment stemming from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorneys firings. In March, Domenici retained high-powered Washington criminal defense attorney Lee Blalock to represent him in the DoJ investigation, where he is accused of attempting to pressure a U.S. Attorney into using his office to influence the midterm elections. Fired U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he felt "leaned on" and "sickened" when Domenici called him seeking information about an investigation of a local Democrat. Specifically, Domenici asked if charges would be filed before the election, and when Iglesias told him they would not, Domenici said “That’s too bad.” And hung up.

David Iglesias – the real-life person the Tom Cruise character in A Few Good Men is based on – became one of the United States Attorneys fired a few months later in the Pearl Harbor Day massacre. In case you have forgotten, on December 7 of 2006, a slate of U.S. Attorneys who either pursued charges against Republicans (Carol Lam in California prosecuted Duke Cunningham and was fired) or who, like Iglesias, refused to use the power of their office to influence lections to favor Republicans, were fired.

In Iglesias case, the trumped up reason for his termination was “time spent away from the office.” The 45 days per year he was gone, was Navy Reserves duty, and the Department of Justice, his very employer, is the government entity charged with prosecuting employers who violate the rights of reservists when that service is used to the detriment of the reservist in employment matters.

When Domenici retained Lee Blalock, a friend of mine, who happens to be an attorney, said that Lee Blalock is not who you hire if you are afraid of losing a Senate seat. Lee Blalock is who you hire if you have been engaging in criminal behavior and you want to keep your ass out of the slammer.

About six weeks after it was made public that Domenici had lawyered up, the Senate Ethics Committee engaged a rare parliamentary move that turned up the heat on Domenici and indicated that the scope of the investigation was widening from the mere propriety of the phone call in question.

The possibility that Domenici violated Senate ethics rules, and perhaps engaged in criminal conduct has not been laid to rest, all investigations are ongoing. It is at least possible that revelations will be brought to light about the Senators involvement in the U.S. Attorney scandal when Bush’s pick for Attorney General comes up for confirmation later in the month.

Steve Benen has more.