The NRA throws in the towel on Holder

posted at 10:24 am on January 13, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Color me only slightly surprised by this news from Erick Erickson at Red State.  The NRA will not use the confirmation vote on Eric Holder as a score for its national rankings this year, limiting their opposition to the nominee for Attorney General to a letter to members.  Erick calls this a “pitiful sellout”, but it looks more like a nod to reality:

Sources inside the National Rifle Association tell me the NRA has succumbed to pressure from Democrats to not actively oppose Eric Holder.

Holder has strident, well known anti-second amendment positions. Nonetheless, because the NRA likes to play nice with Democrats, they are going to roll over for Barack Obama on the Holder nomination instead of fighting for, well, the second amendment — their reason for being. …

I’ve now received additional confirmation from the Senate. The NRA will not actively oppose Holder. The NRA will send out a letter in opposition to Holder, but will neither testify against Holder nor score legislators based on their votes for or against Holder.

Erick thinks this has to do with keeping Harry Reid specifically within the pro-gun coalition, but I suspect the NRA is thinking in more general terms.  Orrin Hatch announced yesterday that he would support Holder’s nomination, and with Democrats holding 59 more seats, Holder’s anti-gun positions won’t stop his nomination.  The NRA has to hope that Holder’s involvement in the FALN and Rich pardons and his connections to Blagojevich will derail his nomination, and a high-profile attack from the NRA could distract attention away from those points.

Of course, it could be that the NRA just doesn’t want to pick a fight, as Erick argues, but that doesn’t make much sense.  Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have shown little reluctance to conduct high-profile political campaigns in the past.  If they don’t want to do so here, I’d credit that to strategy rather than cowardice — mistaken strategy, I think, but still a strategic decision.  The NRA would be better off flexing its muscles here rather than keeping its powder dry.  The Attorney General position can create a lot of problems for gun-rights advocates over the next four years.

Will Holder get derailed?  Hatch’s surprise endorsement makes the chances rather slim, but Paul Mirengoff still has serious questions about Holder’s honesty and/or competence:

That relationship was announced by Blago himself at a press conference on March 24, 2004. The Illinois Gaming Board had voted, controversially, to approve a license for a casino in Rosemont, Illinois. In response to the controversy, which included allegations of corruption, Gov. Blagojevich called for a full, independent investigation. He announced at the March 24 press conference that Eric Holder would conduct that investigation.

But in his initial response to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee in connection with his nomination to be Attorney General, Holder did not mention either the press conference with Blagojevich or the representation announced at that conference. Arlen Specter thus sought clarification of the omission.

In his response, Holder may well have dug himself a deeper hole. He begins by conceding that he should have disclosed the press conference and stating that this was an oversight. So far, so good. But then he asserts: “I never performed substantive work on the matter” of “investigat[ing] issues relating to the Illinois Gaming Board.” He also claims that the “engagement” announced by Blagojevich at the press conference “never materialized.”

Holder’s claim that he never performed substantive work on the Gaming Board investigation does not appear to be accurate. In response to a FOIA request, the Office of the Governor of Illinois has produced a letter of April 2, 2004 from Holder (on Covington & Burling letter head) to the Chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board. The letter begins by stating, “As you know, Governor Blagojevich has appointed me to investigate issues relating to gaming in the Village of Rosemont, Illinois.” After informing the Gaming Board Chairman that “the first stage of the investigation will fous on reviewing documents,” Holder proceeds to request the production of ten categories of documents.

Read the rest.  Hatch may have been better advised to hold off on his endorsement until the end of the confirmation hearings.


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