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Montana U.S. Attorney Selection Going Slowly, Secretly
Posted By On June 22, 2009 @ 2:53 pm In News | Comments Disabled
Still ensconced in the U.S. Attorney job in Montana is one of the most controversial of the “loyal Bushies,” Bill Mercer. For a time in the Bush administration, Mercer wore two hats: as U.S. Attorney and Acting Associate Attorney General in Washington, where he was involved in carrying out the politicized firings of U.S. Attorneys in 2006. Mercer is one of those Bush holdovers whose continued presence grates on the Left.
But the Obama administration is apparently moving cautiously to select his replacement, reports  the Missoulian newspaper.
Back in February, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) sent President Obama a list of three candidates for U.S. Attorney. The names of the three candidates were not released due to “privacy concerns,” but we determined that two of the candidates were Mike Wheat and Mike Cotter. Wheat is an attorney with Cok, Wheat & Kinzler in Bozeman, Mont. He previously served in the state Senate, and lost a campaign for state attorney general. Cotter, on the other hand, is a self-employed Helena, Mont. civil attorney.
Now, more than four months later, the Missoulian says there have been no new developments.
U.S. Attorney’s Office of Montana spokeswoman Jessica T. Fehr told the paper’s Tristan Scott that “We have heard absolutely nothing” and that “We probably will know when it’s announced publicly.”
Even Kalispell attorney Dana Christensen, the man who vetted the applicants for U.S. Attorney claims to be out of the loop:
“I vetted six applicants back in December and January,” Christensen said. “I was receiving intermittent information for a while, but I haven’t heard anything for a couple of months. I’ve sort of been at a loss as far as what the status is. All I’ve heard is rumor.”
One of the six candidates to be interviewed was Baucus’ state director and senior counsel Melodee Hanes. But Baucus’ office confirmed in March that Hanes did not make it onto the list submitted to the President. Another one of the six was 20 year Montana State Senator and Missoula County attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, but he says that it’s unlikely he’s one of the three finalists:
“I think that there were three people interviewed in January by senators Baucus and Tester; I was not included in those interviews, and I have not been kept in the inside loop,” Van Valkenburg said.
If having a nice website  counts for anything, Wheat is a shoe-in for the job.
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