Commentary: Holder qualified, but owes U.S. an explanation

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

As far as we can tell, Eric H. Holder Jr. is highly qualified to become the nation's first African American to serve as U.S. attorney general.

He's a top-flight lawyer who has been both a federal prosecutor and a judge as well as a respected attorney in private practice and top aide to former Attorney General Janet Reno. President-elect Barack Obama is said to have offered the post to Holder, though the Obama transition team is concerned about one potential speed bump: In 2001, as President Clinton was about to leave office, Holder signed off on a federal pardon for Mark Rich. Rich was a commodities dealer wanted on 51 counts of tax fraud related to charges of evading more than $48 million in taxes. Rich had fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution.

But his ex-wife, Denise Rich, had donated $70,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2000 U.S. Senate campaign and $450,000 to President Clinton's presidential library fund.

Mark Rich may have been on the lam, but Holder gave his case only a passing glance, signing off on the proposed pardon as "neutral, leaning toward favorable." News reports later said President Clinton considered that recommendation before granting the pardon.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.