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Senate committee recommends Walker for U.S. Attorney

The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning recommended Charlotte attorney Thomas Walker as the next U.S. Attorney for North Carolina’s Eastern District. He was reported out by voice vote.

Walker would replace George Holding, a Bush appointee who announced his resignation last week following the indictment of John Edwards.

Walker now goes to the full Senate for an up or down confirmation vote, but it’s unclear when that will happen. Many of President Barack Obama’s nominees have been caught in the partisan tussle in the Senate.

Walker was supported by both N.C. senators, Kay Hagan and Richard Burr.

Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat who forwarded Walker’s name to Obama, called him “one of the outstanding legal minds.”

“I look forward to working with Senator Burr to advance Mr. Walker’s nomination in the Senate, and with all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see that he is swiftly confirmed,” she said in a statement.

Rand: I've not been subpoenaed

With some of his closest political allies appearing before a federal grand jury in Raleigh, former Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand said Tuesday he has not been subpoenaed.

Speculation about whether the Fayetteville Democrat had been called to appear before the grand jury has been rampant since his business partner Lyndo Tippett, the former secretary of transportation under Gov. Mike Easley, was subpoenaed last month.

A copy of a subpoena sent to the state Department of Transportation also named Rand, who resigned his legislative seat at the start of the year, as a "relevant party" in the wide-ranging federal investigation of the Easley administration.

Prosecutors also asked DOT for documents and information about state contracts with Law Enforcement Associates, a Raleigh company where Rand serves as board chairman. Tippett, a longtime LEA investor, joined the company's board last year.

Two former LEA board members have accused Rand of scheming to manipulate the company's publicly traded stock. Rand, who was appointed chairman of the state parole board by Gov. Bev Perdue, has denied the accusation.

Walker getting taste of politics

POLITICAL PONG: Thomas Walker, a Charlotte defense attorney who has stood by the side of fallen political figures, is learning about the trouble of standing at the crossroads of law and politics.

President Barack Obama has nominated Walker to the post of U.S. attorney in North Carolina's Eastern District, a job with controversy on every page of the appointment book. Walker, 45, doesn't have the job yet — it requires Senate confirmation — and he's already being volleyed in a game of political one-upmanship. (N&O)

SUSPENDED SENTENCE: In North Carolina 10 percent of public school students are booted out of class for some period each year, either for serious offenses, such as fighting and making threats, or for infractions such as ignoring the dress code. Only three states suspend more students. (N&O)

SENATE CHANGES: The state Senate will be younger, more liberal and less business-friendly in the coming years. Democratic Senate leader Marc Basnight says nothing will change, but interest groups, and Republicans disagree. (N&O)

Burr will hold up U.S. attorney

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr does not plan to return his "blue slip" on U.S. attorney nominee Thomas Walker until the current investigations into two of the state’s most prominent Democrats are completed.

Burr informed President Barack Obama of his decision through the White House counsel’s office, Barb Barrett reports. The decision means that Burr will hold up the selection of a new prosecutor.

Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, wants the current U.S. attorney, George Holding, to complete his probes into former Gov. Mike Easley and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards. Holding was appointed by President George W. Bush.

In a prepared statement, the senator said he supports Walker, a Charlotte lawyer who works for the same legal firm as former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, the husband of former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Burr said he told Obama his opinions in a letter in July about the nominations; his office has refused to release the letter.

"I believe Thomas Walker, who was nominated by the president to be Mr. Holding’s successor, is well-qualified to serve as U.S. attorney, and I support his nomination," Burr said in his statement.

"It is clear, though, that political contributions made by Mr. Walker to the former North Carolina elected officials currently under investigation represent a conflict of interest, and would potentially require his recusal from those very investigations," Burr continued.

Walker has been a donor to Easley.

Hagan mulling action on U.S. attorney

THINKING ABOUT IT: Sen. Kay Hagan said Wednesday that she has not decided whether to hold up the confirmation of a new U.S. attorney to give the Republican appointee who now holds the position time to complete his inquiries into two high-profile Democrats. (N&O)

NEW FUND: State Treasurer Janet Cowell is starting a $250 million equity fund to invest in North Carolina companies with two goals in mind: make money for the state pension fund and create jobs in North Carolina. (N&O)

CHECK IN THE MAIL: Charlotte-based Bank of America said it is set to repay all of its $45 billion in government aid, a step that helps remove the stigma of being a bailout recipient and dials back government scrutiny of its operations. (Charlotte Observer)

No word on investigations

HOLDING ON HOLD: The Obama administration declined to say Tuesday whether Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding will be allowed to complete his investigations into two of North Carolina's most prominent Democrats, former Gov. Mike Easley and two-time presidential candidate John Edwards. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro who has advocated for allowing Holding to continue the investigations, could use a legislative maneuver to block Obama's nominee, Charlotte lawyer Thomas Walker. (N&O)

BENEFITS NOT PROHIBITED: A new report prepared for Mecklenburg County says state laws appear to give local governments authority to offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The county is considering such a policy. The report notes that the issue has never been presented to the courts. (Charlotte Observer)

NOT SLIM FINE: The N.C. Department of Labor found 26 serious health and safety violations at Con Agra's Slim Jim plant in Garner, some of which led to the massive explosion in June that killed four and injured dozens more. ConAgra was fined $134,773 and ordered to correct dozens of problems. Energy Systems Analysts, a Hickory company hired to install a commercial water heater at the plant, was cited for 28 serious violations and fined $58,100. (N&O)

Fetzer says Holding should stay

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer said President Barack Obama should keep U.S. Attorney George Holding.

Fetzer, in a statement, said that Obama's nomination of Thomas Walker is an example of putting politics first.

"You'd be hard pressed to find someone who had put more corrupt politicians behind bars than Holding has during his years in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Now, when confidence in our elected officials is at an all time low, is not the time to remove him from office — especially since he has current investigations underway involving [former Gov.] Mike Easley and former [U.S. Sen.] John Edwards.

"There are a lot of people who are talking about cleaning up the culture of corruption in North Carolina. Why remove from office the one person who’s actually doing something about it?"

Presidents routinely appoint U.S. attorneys of their own party. Holding's long tenure after Obama's election is unusual and possibly due in part to pleas by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to allow Holding to continue his investigations.

In 2001, the last time the White House changed parties, then-U.S. Attorney Janice Cole, a Democrat who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, resigned. President George W. Bush appointed Frank Whitney who was later appointed to a federal judgeship. Bush appointed Holding to replace Whitney.

Walker nominated for U.S. Attorney

President Barack Obama has nominated Thomas Walker for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District.

Under George Holding, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, the office is currently running a wide-ranging investigation into former Gov. Mike Easley. He has also convened a grand jury to investigate the campaign finances of John Edwards.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who put Walker's name forward as a potential nominee, said late Monday that she wants Holding to finish those probes.

"I will continue to impress upon the White House that George Holding should be given the time to complete his investigations into former public officials," Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, said in a statement.

Still, she praised Obama's choice of Walker, a partner at the Charlotte office of Alston & Bird and a former special counsel to N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Hagan called Walker "extremely qualified and fair-minded." She added: "I expect the transition process to be undertaken in a mutually respectful manner with an eye toward what is best for the citizens of North Carolina."

The U.S. Attorney in Raleigh has has become the state's chief enforcer on government corruption. Holding's office led several cases against state officials.

GOP activist-turned-Democrat pleads

Chris Mintz, a Republican activist who switched to the Democratic Party to run for office, pleaded guilty this month to embezzling more than a million dollars from two elderly clients.

Mintz, a financial advisor, is a former chairman of the Wake County Republican Men's Club. He switched to the Democratic Party in 2005 and ran unsuccessfully in that party's primary for the N.C. House of Representatives in district 41 against Ty Harrell, who resigned Sunday. Mintz considered a run for state treasurer in 2007.

Mintz, 34, pleaded guilty to fraud by an investment adviser on Sept. 9. He moved securities from his clients' accounts to his own, selling the securities and wiring the money to his personal account, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in New Bern.

Dellinger draws endorsements

Durham lawyer Hampton Dellinger has received endorsements from the N.C. Police Benevolent Association and a group of former federal prosecutors in his bid to be one of the new U.S. attorneys in North Carolina.

The police association dispatched a letter two weeks ago to President Barack Obama. Last month a group of 29 former prosecutors and former U.S. Justice Department lawyers sent their own endorsement to White House Counsel Gregory Craig. Dome obtained copies of the letters.

Dellinger, who was legal counsel to then-Gov. Mike Easley from 2001 to 2003 and a N.C. Justice Department lawyer before that, is one of three people whose names were submitted to the White House for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. 

(Read the letters by clicking below.)



Document(s):
dellinger(2).pdf
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