The Midwest has been hit hard by meth. Law enforcement devotes significant resources to combatting the illegal drug. All of which puts Des Moines lawyer Nick Klinefeldt, who is Sen. Tom Harkin’s choice for Iowa Southern District U.S. Attorney, in an unusual position.
Klinefeldt’s father, Michael Arthur Klinefeldt, is serving a 10-year sentence on a methamphetamine conviction, according to court records. Nick Klinefeldt declined to comment. A spokesman for Harkin said the candidate’s father’s conviction isn’t an issue. ”It is Nick, not his father, who is up for consideration,” Bergen Kenny wrote in an e-mail. ”Senator Harkin believes that Nick will fully and fairly enforce the law and should be considered for U.S. Attorney based on his credentials.”
The elder Klinefeldt is slated to be released from federal prison in 2012.
Klinefeldt is a former aide to Harkin. He also served as general counsel for the Iowa Democratic party until earlier this year and as a lawyer for the Obama for President campaign in Iowa, according to the Iowa Independent, which reported in March that Harkin had recommended him for the U.S. Attorney post.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa regularly oversees prosecutions of methamphetamine manufacturers and users. The office announced 14 successful meth-related prosecutions this year, including four convictions last month.
The elder Klinefeldt was nabbed in a 2002 incident, according to court documents. On an October evening seven years ago, Michael Arthur Klinefeldt and another man, identified as William Jon DeMoss Jr., were riding in a minivan that contained a meth lab. (Read the criminal complaint here and other court documents here.) Acting on a tip, a deputy in the Polk County Sherriff’s Office stopped the van.
The police officer reported the van smelled of ether and ammonia — substances used to manufacture meth. A analysis showed the lab produced more than 5 grams of meth and had the materials necessary to make more of the drug.
A camouflage fanny pack with a loaded .22 caliber revolver in it was also discovered in the vehicle. Klinefeldt told the police officer that DeMoss wore the fanny pack when they were making the meth in a Des Moines forest, records show.
A federal judge sentenced Klinefeldt to prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. This was his second meth-related conviction. Klinefeldt was also convicted in 1993 for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
Harkin recommended Nick Klinefeldt to replace the current U.S. Attorney, Matthew G. Whitaker, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004.
Klinefeldt, 35, works in the general litigation department of Des Moines law firm Ahlers & Cooney. He is not a partner at his firm. He previously practiced complex civil and criminal litigation in Boston.
The U.S. Attorney candidate clerked for U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Judge Robert W. Pratt from 2000 to 2002 and Massachusetts Appeals Court Chief Justice Christopher J. Armstrong and Justice Benjamin Kaplan from 2002 to 2003.
He also has strong ties to Harkin, having worked for the senator’s 1996 reelection campaign and on his Senate staff before attending law school at the University of Iowa, according to the Radio Iowa blog. In 2008, he donated $500 to Harkin’s campaign and $500 to the Obama presidential campaign, records show. He also gave $1000 to the Iowa Democratic Party between 2007 and 2008.