Bond apologizes, faces ethics complaint in U.S. attorney firing

The senator faces an ethics complaint for his personal involvement.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., seen at a presidential debate watch party Tuesday at the Boone County Republican Headquarters, recently apologized for his role in the firing of a U.S. attorney in 2006. Bond's apology came after a complaint was filed to the Senate Ethics Committee on Sept. 30.

A government watchdog group filed a complaint on Sept. 30 with the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee against Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., asking for an investigation into whether Bond was personally involved in the firing of a U.S. attorney in 2006.

On the same day, Bond's office issued an apology for his staff's involvement in the firing of Todd Graves, at the time the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, because Graves refused to intervene in a dispute between Bond and Graves' brother, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, according to a report by The Washington Post. The dispute centered on who would get political credit for obtaining a highway construction grant in northern Missouri, according to the report.

The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed its complaint after the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility - both parts of the Department of Justice - released a 358-page report on the firings on Sept. 29.

Todd Graves, whom Bond had sponsored in 2001 for the U.S. attorney job, was one of nine federal prosecutors fired in 2006, allegedly for political reasons. The controversy over the dismissals led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in August 2007.

In December 2006, seven U.S. attorneys were told to resign from their positions following the dismissal of two other federal prosecutors earlier that year. In early 2007, congressional leaders began to question the reason for the removals. In March 2007, the OIG and the OPR began an investigation that focused "on the reasons for the removals of the U.S. Attorneys and whether they were removed for partisan political purposes," according to the report.

Bond refused to speak directly to investigators about Todd Graves' dismissal, but in a letter to U.S. Inspector General Glenn Fine, he denied that he had called the White House about Graves.

Following the report's release, Bond repudiated his staff's conduct but denied knowing anything about their actions.

"The report on Todd and my staff is extremely troubling to me," Bond wrote in the letter, "I had no knowledge of my staff's action, did not approve it and would not have approved it. Missouri deserves better and I expect better of my staff. To the people of Missouri and to Todd I apologize."

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said the group filed its complaint because it did not believe that Bond's staff could have taken such dramatic action without his approval.

"It just seems incredibly risky for a Senate staffer to get a U.S. attorney fired without a senator knowing," Sloan said.

Sloan said Bond's apology did not take enough responsibility for his role in Graves' termination.

"It's too little, too late," she said, "They issued an apology when they got caught. First, they shouldn't have done it. When they did it, they should have apologized long before a report came out saying they did it."

Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Bond should have talked to investigators.

"When you don't have enough ethics to answer to the Bush Department of Justice, that is a sad and telling sign," Cardetti said. "Missourians deserve better than a U.S. senator who politicizes the U.S. Department of Justice."

Tina Hervey, a spokeswoman for the state Republican Party, refused to comment.

Bond spokeswoman Shana Marchio said the senator fully cooperated as necessary.

"Senator Bond promptly provided everything he knew in writing about the situation to the IG," Marchio said in an e-mail. "The IG never followed up with the Senator or the Senator's office, not a phone call, email, or fax with any additional questions or to indicate that the letter did not adequately answer their questions."

 

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