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Past Controversies Hang Over Obama's Cabinet Picks

As President-elect Barack Obama quickly selects officials for his administration, attention is starting to turn to the potential obstacles they face in Senate confirmation hearings.

The Associated Press, citing a Democratic source, reports that John Podesta, a leader of Obama's transition team, had told Senate aides on Friday that Obama hoped for a speedy confirmation so the new administration could get to work quickly thereafter.

But past controversies involving some of his picks could make for bloody hearings.

The latest list of Obama's expected Cabinet selections includes Hillary Clinton for secretary of state, Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary, Eric Holder as his attorney general, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for commerce secretary and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano for secretary of the Homeland Security Department.

Senators will have to decide in the confirmation hearings whether to broach Richardson's involvement, though marginal, in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, as well as Napolitano's work in the Anita Hill sexual harassment case and Holder's support of President Clinton's controversial pardon of Marc Rich.

Although none of these nominations is expected to fail, it is possible some could be delayed.

Richardson's nomination could be haunted by two incidents. 

First, he offered Lewinsky a job at the United Nations in what prosecutors called an attempt to buy her silence on behalf of President Bill Clinton, according to FOX News' Washington Deputy Managing Editor Bill Sammon's book, "Meet the Next President."

Richardson also could face a Capitol grilling for accusations he faced from both Democratic and Republican senators for failing to properly safeguard nuclear secrets after he left his U.N. post to become energy secretary.

After delaying Richardson's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2000 for inquiries into security lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratories, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia told him he would never again receive Senate support for any office he sought.

"You have squandered your treasure," Byrd told him.

And though Napolitano, who was re-elected Arizona's governor in 2006, has spent all of her political career in that state, she is no stranger to Washington controversy.

As a private attorney in Phoenix in 1991, Napolitano was part of the legal team representing Anita Hill, a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission colleague of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, whom Hill had accused of sexual harassment. Her work on that case postponed Napolitano's own Senate confirmation as U.S. attorney but did not derail Thomas' confirmation as a Supreme Court justice.

At the time, some Republicans suggested she coached a witness for Hill into changing testimony. Napolitano refused to answer questions about that on grounds it would violate the lawyer-client confidentiality agreement.

She was the Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for Arizona when the Justice Department decided against prosecuting Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy, for stealing prescription drugs from her medical charity, but she took no part in that case because she was awaiting Senate confirmation, on which McCain was to vote.

The biggest obstacle facing Obama's choice for attorney general, Eric Holder, could be his pardon of Marc Rich during the Clinton administration.

Rich was the fugitive billionaire who was given a pardon by Clinton on his final day in office. Rich's estranged wife, Denise Rich, was a high-paying donor to Clinton.

Senate Republicans have told Obama aides that the Rich pardon would come up during hearings but that the nomination likely wouldn't be held up, according to a person involved in the talks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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