Republicans, smelling the success of knocking out the head of Sen. Barack Obama's vice-presidential search committee Wednesday, renewed efforts to ensnare another top adviser to the Democratic presidential candidate with the exploits of his Washington-insider past.
The criticism Thursday centered on Obama adviser Eric H. Holder Jr., who is scrutinizing candidates to be the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee's running mate. As deputy attorney general under President Clinton, Mr. Holder reviewed the last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Charged with 51 counts of fraud, tax evasion and illegally trading with Iran, Mr. Rich fled to Switzerland in 1983 but won a pardon from Mr. Clinton in 2001. The decision prompted a congressional investigation because Mr. Rich's wife was a major Democratic donor and prosecutors said they were never consulted.
Indicted by then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Rich failed to return to the U.S. following the indictment and was on the FBI's Most Wanted list for several years. Mr. Holder had given a "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion of the pardon that led directly to the pardoning of Mr. Rich on Mr. Clinton's last day in office.
"I think it is a matter of record that Mr. Holder recommended the pardoning of Mr. Rich," Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, told reporters Thursday.
"And all those things will be taken into consideration by the media and the American people, especially when you are entrusting individuals with one of the most important decisions that a presidential candidate can make before that individual is elected and that is who the running mate is," he said.
The Republican outcry over Mr. Holder came a day after Obama adviser Jim Johnson, who was leading the vice-presidential search team, resigned amid questions about his Wall Street dealings, including ties to subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp.
Democrats defended Mr. Holder and raised their own questions about top officials in Mr. McCain's campaign, including former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and Arthur B. Culvahouse, who is leading the search for Mr. McCain's running mate.
"It's telling that John McCain, whose vice presidential search process is headed by a prominent D.C. lobbyist who served as the Reagan administration's point man on the Iran-Contra scandal, would try to recycle a tired attack on Mr. Holder," said Obama campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan, referring to Mr. Culvahouse.
Mr. Sevugan said Mr. McCain instead should "talk about the issues on a day when a nonpartisan report shows that the Barack Obama would provide three times as much tax relief to middle-class families and John McCain would provide nearly a quarter of his tax cuts to households that make more $2.8 million."
The Obama campaign also criticized Ms. Fiorina, a top economic adviser in the McCain campaign, who "presided over thousands of layoffs at Hewlett-Packard while receiving a $21 million severance package and $650,000 in mortgage assistance."