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A (mostly) Defense Of Eric Holder

David Corn has a long item explaing why Eric Holder "represents what's wrong with Washington." It's not what Holder did in the Marc Rich scandal, according to Corn; it's what Holder did after that:

[H]e is a poster child for something perhaps more pernicious and extensive in the nation's capital: selling out. Months after the Clinton administration ended, Holder went to work for the influential law firm and lobbying shop of Covington and Burling. (He also joined the boards of Eastman Kodak and MCI.)

Holder was doing what so many routinely do in Washington: cashing in. He took years of experience he had gathered as a public servant and rented it to corporations accused of serious wrongdoing. He smoothly went from doing good to doing well. In 2008, according to his confirmation questionnaire, he made $2.1 million at Covington and Burling. And he expects in 2009 to bring in over $2.5 million, including his separation payment.

I think Corn is right in the main. The one thing I would say in Holder's defense--and one way in which he's at least somewhat different from the typical Washington legal sell-out--is that, prior to joining Covington, he'd spent his entire career in public service. When Holder graduated from Columbia Law School in 1976, he went to work at the Justice Department, where he spent the next 12 years. He then went on to serve as a superior court judge in D.C., the U.S. attorney for D.C., and, finally, the deputy attorney general. In other words, before he got his big paycheck from Covington, he'd spent the first 25 years of his career drawing a government salary. (You have to imagine that, even with his multi-million paychecks from Covington, Holder has still made less than he would have if he'd gone straight into private practice after Columbia.) I think the more traditional path to cashing in on goverment service usually involves much less time in government. 

--Jason Zengerle