By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Richard Connelly
By Jeff Balke
By Casey Michel
By Craig Hlavaty
By Jeff Balke
"It's not our job to vet candidates," a staffer offers by way of a defense. "That's the FBI's and the White House's job."
Such "vetting" is becoming increasingly important as national partisan politics plays an ever-widening role in filling federal jobs. The Clinton administration says Senate Republicans have intentionally delayed approving nominees, noting that some judicial candidates have been waiting for a Senate vote for more than two years.
And Republican Senator Phil Gramm has made national headlines by blocking one of Clinton's judicial choices, Michael Schattman of Fort Worth, because he found Schattman to be too political. Neither Gramm nor Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have commented on Garcia's recommendation.
Without being directly asked by anyone about potential embarrassments, Garcia saw no need to volunteer information. "For our family's sake and for my brother's children's sake, we've tried to keep my brother's life private," he says. "I've never felt it was relevant to my professional career. When I try a suit, when I'm interviewed for a job, when I ran for president [of the young lawyers' group], I never felt the need to say, 'By the way, my brother's in prison.' It's not a normal reaction, to go into details like that."
The congressmen and their staffs were clearly upset when they learned the news. "I've told him, 'You should've told us,' " Green says. "But I've gotten past that. He's still a quality candidate."
Green's affirmation of the choice has been publicly echoed by the other four members of the delegation -- partly due to another campaign by Garcia.
Within days of the news hitting the media, the representatives again began receiving faxes and calls, this time urging them not to dump Garcia.
Once he ascertained that his sponsors would be sticking with him, Garcia moved on to the media. He said he got a call from U.S. Representative Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi, the dean of the delegation, on November 21, informing him that Ortiz "had spoken to all the members and they had reaffirmed their unanimous support."
"That day I called the Chronicle and said, 'Hey, you guys ran a piece that this [controversy] was casting doubt on my nomination, but it's been reaffirmed, so why not run a piece saying so?' I complained, and then some of my friends called and complained, and luckily they finally did run a story that explained the actual status," Garcia says.
The Chronicle's story, on the front page of the November 27 issue, was headlined "Garcia still Democrats' top choice."
While he may remain the official top choice of the delegation, whether he will make it through the White House, much less the Senate, is debatable.
"I think the nomination probably is in trouble, not because it's fair but because the White House has so much trouble getting anyone through the Senate these days," says Green, who nonetheless maintains he would have voted for Garcia even if he had learned about Garcia's brother at the interview stage.
"It's gonna take a huge amount of effort to get him through," says a staffer. "It's gonna take not just a Virgin Mary, but a Republican Virgin Mary, to get through the Senate, much less someone who's been in the paper with something like this."
Privately, some staffers expect the White House to deliver the bad news to Garcia after the FBI investigations of both him and runner-up Carlos Valdez.
Garcia adamantly insists that isn't so, and he rails against anonymous sources who call into question his chances.
"If anyone felt I should not go forward I'd have thought I'd have heard that by now," he says. "But I've heard nothing but support and encouragement. I'm getting letters from people I don't even know. There's been an incredible amount of support community-wide. You'd be surprised how many people have a cousin, or a sister, or somebody who has problems."
That's true, of course, and even Garcia's critics say that his brother's actions should not play a role in whether he wins the post. But the way the situation came out, with an air of cover-up, only serves to give Republicans ammunition to block Garcia until so late in Clinton's term that the process would be a moot point.
If that scenario occurs, Garcia will have paid a high price for family loyalty -- and, some would say, for trying to keep that act of loyalty private while still ambitiously trying to climb in the political world.
While he says he could have better handled the manner in which the story came out, Garcia quietly insists he wouldn't change anything he did for his family.
"We all have brothers and we all have families," he says softly. "We all have -- we don't get to pick who our family is. I abhor what he did, but I still love my brother.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city