See the Associated Press story here. A more extensive piece also appears over at Law.com. Here are some snippets from it:
The last time Washington attorney Eric Holder participated in a high-profile vetting, it was for fugitive financier Marc Rich. The episode in 2001 became the final scandal of the Clinton administration and landed Holder, at the time the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, in the middle of a congressional investigation.
Now Holder, a co-chairman of Barack Obama's campaign, is one of three big names who will lead the search for a potential running mate for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee.
... In the Clinton pardon scandal, Holder was deputy attorney general when his duties intersected with the efforts of Rich's lawyer, Jack Quinn, who had been White House counsel earlier in the Clinton administration. The entire matter was handled in an unorthodox manner — on a straight line from Rich's lawyer to the White House, with a consulting role for Holder.
Later, Holder said he told White House counsel Beth Nolan the day before the pardon was issued that he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable" in regard to the pardon. He said he and Nolan "never had a prolonged conversation about the matter." To make matters worse, Holder had asked Quinn for his help in becoming attorney general in the event then-Vice President Al Gore won the 2000 election.
Rich did not even qualify for a pardon under Justice Department guidelines, which say no pardons can be requested until five years after completion of a sentence in a criminal case. Prosecutors on the Rich case testified that no one consulted with them before a recommendation went to the president on the Rich pardon. Rich has been based in Switzerland since 1983, just before he was indicted in the United States, accused of tax evasion on more than $100 million in income, fraud and participating in illegal oil deals with Iran. Members of Congress pointed out that Rich's ex-wife, Denise, visited the White House more than a dozen times during Clinton's presidency and contributed an estimated $450,000 to the president's library foundation, $1.1 million to the Democratic Party and at least $109,000 to Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Senate.
... In the end, Holder told Congress he would have tried to stop the Rich pardon if he had known the full details of the fugitive financier's case. Holder said he did not pay much attention to Rich's case amid a flood of pardon requests that came to the Justice Department in Clinton's last days in office.
Quinn and Holder denied that anything untoward or illegal had been done by them or anyone else that they knew of, and the passage of time has restored whatever damage to Holder's reputation occurred at the time. Seven and a half years after the most controversial incident of his legal career, Holder enjoys a stellar reputation among his Washington colleagues ...
PardonPower seems to remember something about Holder congratulating Marc Rich after the pardon, or maybe it was Rich's lawyer. While these pieces also portray Holder as being swamped with clemency business, it is also documented (somewhere!) that Holder told applicants (or at least one applicant) that the end of the administration was the "right time" for such. See Law.com piece here.
... On January 19, 2001, the last full day of the Clinton administration, Holder had a lot on his plate: commutation requests, department personnel matters, and security details for the next day's inauguration. A pardon application for a fugitive commodities trader named Marc Rich was not the most pressing issue of the day. In fact, Holder believed the application had such a small shot at being granted that he didn't give it much thought. But when the White House asked for his view on the pardon he gave it: "neutral leaning towards favorable."
... For the first time in his career, Holder faced an assault on his reputation and integrity. He had been the main Justice Department contact for Rich's lawyer, John Quinn, who was then at Arnold & Porter. The two had known each other well. In fact, sometime before the 2000 election -- it's not clear when -- Holder told Quinn, a close confidant of Vice President Al Gore, that he wanted to be attorney general in a Gore administration. (Both men say the conversation had nothing to do with the Rich
Quinn first asked for Holder's help on the Marc Rich case in November 2000, when Rich's prosecutors in the Southern District of New York had refused to meet with him. When Holder wasn't able to change the New York prosecutors' minds, Quinn filed a pardon application with the White House. He told White House counsel that they should contact Holder about the case, even though Holder was only vaguely familiar with its details.
The Rich matter reached its nadir for Holder on Feb. 8, 2001, when he was summoned to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Seated next to Quinn, Holder said in his statement that his conscience was clear, though he wished he had done certain things differently. But he also vented frustration at being the fall guy. "I have been angry, hurt and even somewhat disillusioned by what has transpired over the past two weeks with regard to this pardon," he said.
Holder endured hours of questioning from House members, some of it personal. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who was chairman of the oversight committee, insinuated that Holder and Quinn had engaged in a quid pro quo. "The thing is, you wanted something from Mr. Quinn," said Burton. "You wanted his support for attorney general of the United States, and he wanted a pardon for Mr. Rich and his partner." Holder, who sharply denied such a deal, had his backers ...
But the damage to his image had been done. In a New York Times op-ed explaining the Rich pardon, President Clinton didn't do much to protect Holder. He wrote that he regretted that Holder "did not have more time to review the case." "It is without a doubt the darkest moment in Eric Holder's professional life," says Olson, Holder's former chief of staff. "I think it ate at him for quite a while. And what hurt him the most is the fact that, for the first time ever, his motives were called into question. And he knew he hadn't intentionally done anything wrong, but I think he realizes that he should have handled it better."