Mystery senator holds up bailout money watchdog, but not Allard

Rampant speculation has fingered retiring U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., as a likely suspect for holding up the nomination of Neil Barofsky to be the Treasury Department’s special inspector general in charge of overseeing the $700 billion (and climbing) Wall Street bailout.

The M.O.: An outgoing lawmaker who sits on the Senate banking committee with no worries about his political future does an 11th-hour favor for conservative friends on Capitol Hill. All that was missing was Wayne Allard in the conservatory with a candlestick in waylaying the Senate confirmation process to put some teeth in the oversight program.

But according to TPM Muckraker, the mild-mannered Colorado veterinarian nixed the rumor that he was the source of thwarting public sentiment to watchdog the escalating bailout:

Seven senators’ offices have said unequivocally that they’re not responsible: Coburn, Dole, Allard, Coleman, Warner, Hatch, and Corker.

In addition, staffers for four more — Shelby, Sessions, Inhofe, and Bond — have given versions of “not to my knowledge”, meaning these senators probably aren’t prime suspects, though they can’t be definitively struck from the list.

The D.C. parlor game is now focused on Kentucky GOP Sen. Jim Bunning, who criticized Barofsky’s nomination. Since the beginning of the financial crisis Bunning has been sour on the bailout in general. Then last week he groused about the more recent freelancing by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in changing the terms of the crisis plan agreed to by Congress and the White House and Barofsky’s reluctance to question those decisions.

Mr. Bunning? Hiding your nomination-quashing candlestick in plain sight. What a concept.

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