Saturday, March 24, 2007

Domenici Caught in Prosecutor Scandal

WASHINGTON - Sen. Pete Domenici, known as the quintessential straight shooter in the mannerly Senate, is an unlikely figure to be caught up in the political scandal over federal prosecutor firings.

An elder statesman with an untarnished reputation during his six terms, the New Mexico Republican commands equal parts affectionate respect and fear in Congress for his power, his loyalty, and his sometimes bullying ways.

It's his cantankerous streak - well known to colleagues who have tangled with him on budget and spending matters - that may have landed the 74-year-old Domenici at the center of the growing furor.
Revelations that Domenici phoned one of the ousted U.S. attorneys and complained to President Bush and the Justice Department about him helped touch off a larger congressional investigation into the firings, which has embarrassed the administration, threatened the job of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and sparked a showdown between the White House and Congress over whether Bush's aides should have to testify.

Domenici, who faces re-election next fall, is dealing with troubling consequences of his own.

He's under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee after a watchdog group accused him of trying to pressure David Iglesias, then the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., to rush a corruption probe against Democrats in an effort to sway the 2006 elections.

Domenici has hired prominent Washington lawyer Lee Blalack, best known for defending jailed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., against bribery charges ...

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