Liz Holtzman for New York Attorney General (And Watch Out Wall Street)

Wall Street’s gone wild and Congress seems disinclined to rein it in. The Justice Department may stray slightly from the president’s goal of “looking forward, not backward.” But there’s a weakness in the master plan for Goldman Sachs’ domination of the world: Wall Street is in New York State, and the leading candidate for New York State Attorney General is Elizabeth Holtzman.

If Liz runs on a campaign to clean up Wall Street, regulate it, and deter crimes by enforcing laws, she will likely gain the backing of many national organizations, including the labor movement, which share this agenda. And a campaign that garners support, and funding, nationally would add significantly to her advantage, and to our chances of combatting the kleptocracy in courts of law.

Liz Holtzman served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the youngest woman elected to Congress, where she quickly took a leading role in the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. She served two terms as the first woman elected District Attorney of Kings County (Brooklyn) and served as the first woman elected New York City Comptroller.

Before any of that, she co-founded Law Students Civil Rights Research Council, which recruited law students to work in the civil rights movement in the South. In 1963 she worked for a civil rights lawyer in Georgia. In 1964 she interned for the NAACP and helped write a brief on the first anti-miscegenation case.

Holtzman entered Congress in 1973 and took a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, just in time to pursue the impeachment of a lawless president. She gained national attention for her work on that impeachment, and for her questioning of President Gerald Ford about his pardoning of Nixon. She then gained international attention by exposing the presence of Nazi war criminals in the United States and forcing the creation of a special Justice Department unit to bring them to justice. Holtzman led committee work and passed legislation on a wide range of issues in Congress, but in the area of justice alone it is worth noting that she co-authored the special prosecutor law and brought a lawsuit challenging Nixon’s unauthorized bombing of Cambodia.

Serving as District Attorney in Brooklyn from 1982 to 1989, Holtzman played a key role in ending racial discrimination in jury selection, led the effort to reform New York’s rape and child molestation laws, persuaded the Court of Appeals to allow prosecution for marital rape, and created the first environmental crimes bureau in the state.

I didn’t know Liz for most of this history, but I can understand how she got so much done everywhere she went, because I saw her advocacy work during the Bush-Cheney era. She was one of the most articulate, authoritative, persuasive, and energizing speakers, writers, and agitators against warrantless spying, torture, the occupation of Iraq, and the erosion of the rule of law in our federal government. In 2006, she published, together with Cynthia Cooper, “The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens.”

The wisdom of letting Bush, Cheney, and all of their cronies skate has been losing a little of its shine these past few years. Someone who was wise enough to speak up may find New Yorkers wanting to listen to her now.