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In response to our quest to figure out which GOP senator is blocking the nomination of Neil Barofsky to be inspector general for the bailout money, Paul Blumenthal of the Sunlight Foundation, a good government organization, provides some key background on how these Senate holds work:

We've had our fair share of experience with secret holds, having fought to reveal the identities of those secretly blocking the Coburn-Obama bill (FFATA) and the campaign finance e-filing bill (S. 223). The first thing of note is that secret holds were, for the most part, abolished during the 110th Congress. The Honest Leadership and Open Government Act mandated the disclosure of the identity of a senator secretly blocking a "measure or matter" "not later than 6 session days" after the initiation of the hold.

The Barofsky nomination provides a good example of the loopholes in this mandate of disclosure. If a bill or, in this case, a nomination comes up prior to a long recess, the disclosure of the offending senator's identity will have to wait until the Senate reconvenes for at least 6 session days, not calendar days. So far, since the nomination was blocked, the Senate convened for two session days. While they are expected to convene tomorrow for a pro forma session, it is unknown whether the Senate will convene for four more days by the end of the year.


In other words, if the Senate does end up convening for four more days this session, we could soon find out the mystery senator's identity -- though how that would actually play out in practice remains unknown.

But if, on the other hand, the Senate doesn't meet for four more days this session, we could never know, and the hold could remain in place at least until the new Congress convenes.

Meanwhile, reports from readers continue to pour in -- more soon.

A staffer for the outgoing Virginia senator confirms to a reader that he didn't put a hold on Neil Barofsky's nomination to be bailout IG.

Given our coverage of the unprecedented politicization of the Department of Justice under President Bush, we thought this passage from Barack Obama's prepared remarks this morning -- at which he announced Eric Holder as his pick for Attorney General, among other selections -- was worth noting:

Eric also has the combination of toughness and independence that we need at the Justice Department. Let me be clear: the Attorney General serves the American people. And I have every expectation that Eric will protect our people, uphold the public trust, and adhere to our Constitution.


In other words, Obama is sending a message that Holder won't see his role as being the president's personal lawyer -- which was how Alberto Gonzales, who had been Bush's lawyer both in the White House and in Texas, seemed to view the job.

Could we see more members of Congress charged in connection with the investigation into the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal?

Lawyers for Mitchell Wade, the former defense contractor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to bribing his friend Cunningham, filed a "sentencing memo" last week claiming that Wade had helped prosecutors' efforts to look into "at least five other members of Congress" who were under investigation for "corruption similar to that of Mr. Cunningham."

The Washington Post adds:

Although none of those members is named, two are under investigation, according to the memorandum, and "three others have come under scrutiny for their receipt of straw contributions" from former Wade employees and one for the possible receipt of undisclosed gifts.


The existence of the memo -- which argued for a more lenient sentence for Wade -- was first reported on the blog of the investigative reporter Seth Hettena, who has published a book on the Cunningham scandal.

Hettena writes that former GOP Florida congresswoman Katherine Harris (yes, that Katherine Harris), and Virginia Republican Rep. Virgil Goode -- who has apparently lost his Virginia seat -- are likely on that list of five. (We told you about Harris' and Goode's connections to the scandal back in 2006).

Hettena adds: "Wade wanted to open facilities in their districts and made $78,000 in "straw" contributions to grease the wheels. Neither Harris nor Goode has been charged with wrongdoing."

A member of the recently-ousted North Carolina senator's staff tells a reader that she didn't put a hold on the nomination of Neil Barofsky as inspector general for the bailout.

We've already all but ruled out four other GOP senators: Coburn and Inhofe from Oklahoma, and Sessions and Shelby from Alabama.

An hour ago, we asked readers to call their GOP senators and ask whether they put a hold on the nomination of Neil Barofsky to a key post overseeing the Treasury Department's use of bailout money.

We've already heard back from readers on four senators...

Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) -- A reader reports that Coburn's office "was absolutely categorical. They publicize all their holds and they have not placed one on Barofsky."

Sen. James Inhofe (OK) -- "His staff said that they 'didn't believe' that the Senator had placed such a hold.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL) -- Sessions' legislative director told a reader: "Not to my knowledge."

Sen. Richard Shelby (AL) -- A staffer told our reader: "I don't think so. If he had, I would have heard about it." (Shelby is the ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee, which cleared Barofsky's nomination two weeks ago.)

Keep letting us know what you hear...

Here's one possible suspect in the mystery of which Republican senator put a hold on the nomination of federal prosecutor Neil Barofsky for the key post of special inspector general for the bailout.

During Barofsky's appearance before the Senate banking committee November 19, Kentucky GOP senator Jim Bunning -- who from the beginning has been a staunch opponent of the bailout as a whole -- made clear that he opposed the nomination. Bunning expressed concern about the Treasury's decision last month to change its plan for how to use the bailout money, and about Barofsky's apparent reluctance, at a previous hearing, to question that decision by Treasury.

From the hearing:

Bunning: The bailout law also allows $50 million for your office, and so you will have a very ample amount of resources.

But I have serious concerns with your nomination. The nominee may be a dedicated public servant. He appears to be a skilled prosecutor and a man of integrity. But I wonder why taxpayers should have to pay $50 million to a watchdog who will have nothing to watch. How willing (sic) the IG performs (sic) his statutory role when the secretary has rewritten the law already, less than two months after it was enacted.

...

In his testimony earlier this week, Mr. Barofsky did not question Secretary Paulson's unlikely interpretation of the bailout law. Now, that's the money that is spent; if he does not question it, he will have little to do but watch the preferred stock positions mature.

...

Ultimately, I believe Mr. Barofsky, with his impressive legal skills, can serve the public far better in the Southern District of New York, where he can continue to prosecute mortgage fraud.


To be clear: Bunning, or any other senator, has a perfect right to oppose Barofsky's nomination for the reasons he suggests above. But anonymously preventing a free vote on the issue, especially at a time of such urgency, hardly offers a model of the kind of openness and transparency that Congress is calling for from the Treasury Department.

We've put in a call to Bunning's office, and will let you know what we hear.

Last week we noticed that at least one unnamed Republican senator has put a hold on the nomination of Neil Barofsky as the Treasury's Department's special inspector general for the bailout.

This is a crucial post for ensuring that the department spends its $700 billion wisely and without favor -- all the more so because Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and the man running the bailout, Neel Kashkari, are both former executives at Goldman Sachs, which has already received $10 billion from Treasury. And no one has seriously questioned Barofsky's personal fitness for the job.

Senators have the right to anonymously put a hold on any nomination to a federal post for any reason whatsoever. But given what's at stake here, it's worth trying to find out who's responsible for the hold, and why. We've put in a call to Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell's office. But we could use your help too.

So if you live in a state with at least one Republican senator, we're asking you to call their office, tell them you're a constituent, and politely ask whether they put a hold on Barofsky's nomination, and if so, why. Then email us and let us know what you find out -- even if it's a 'no' or an inconclusive answer. If nothing else, your information can help us narrow down the list.

And in case it helps, here's the statement put out by Sen. Chris Dodd, the chair of the banking committee, that first mentioned the hold.

One final point: in Friday's post, we noted a jurisdictional dispute between the Senate banking and finance committees, mentioned in a Washington Post story before the hold was put on, as a possible explanation for the move. But a Hill staffer in a position to know tells us that the issue has been resolved. So you can scratch that idea.

We'll be watching for your emails...

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