DECEMBER 05, 2008
Barack Obama has chosen a second cabinet member embroiled in Bill Clinton’s deplorable last-minute pardons, this week a California politician who orchestrated the commutation of a jailed drug dealer whose father was a major campaign donor.
Weeks after naming an attorney general who helped pardon a fugitive financier and a pair of terrorists, the new commander-in-chief has chosen a crucial U.S. trade representative—Congressman Xavier Becerra—who helped free a renowned drug kingpin (Carlos Vignali) sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
Vignali operated a major narcotics ring in Becerra’s hometown of Los Angeles that transported nearly 1,000 pounds of cocaine and Clinton’s Justice Department pardon attorney, Roger Adams, strongly opposed clemency. The federal judge who sentenced Vignali also complained that the commutation was inappropriate and a congressional report concluded that it “mocked law enforcement.”
It didn’t stop Becerra, a prominent Latino rights advocate who has served in Congress since 1993, from pushing for the dealer’s release at the request of his father, Horacio. The elder Vignali, a rich Los Angeles businessman, contributed thousands of dollars to Becerra’s various campaigns and a favor was in order. Horacio Vignali also paid Hillary Clinton’s brother, Hugh Rodham, hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby the first couple for his thug of a son’s release.
Maybe Rodham will be Obama’s next cabinet pick. For now, the new president wants Becerra to be the nation’s chief trade negotiator. It will certainly add a scandalous flavor to a cabinet full of Clinton era officials with controversial histories. So much for change.
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