President Barack Obama has come under fire for his nomination of Tim Purdon for North Dakota U.S. Attorney, with some critics saying the prominent Democrat received the nomination for his party allegiance rather than his experience, Fox News reported Saturday.
Critics say that Purdon was chosen over more-qualified candidates due to his political connections. Purdon — who was on the executive committee of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party from February 2006 until his resignation earlier this month — has no prosecutorial experience. Read about his full background here.
Bill Brudvik, who had been a candidate for the job, initially criticized Obama for the nomination of Purdon in an interview with the Fargo Forum, but on Saturday he declined comment to Fox News. “I’ve said way too much,” Brudvik told Fox.
Others who were under consideration for the job were Jasper Schneider, a state representative and Fargo attorney; Janice Morley, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Fargo; and Rebecca Thiem, an attorney with Zuger Kirmis & Smith in Bismarck.
Scott Hennen, a conservative commentator in North Dakota, blasted Purdon’s political connections and his background as a criminal defense attorney, Fox News reported.
“Talk about the fox guarding the hen house,” he wrote on his Web site. “Looks like Purdon’s lifetime service to the Democrats — raising mega bucks for big government-loving tax-hiking liberals — is getting rewarded.”
Purdon has the support of his state’s delegation.
Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, in a statement, called Purdon an “outstanding choice.”
“He is well respected and an example of how dedication, education and hard work pay off. He has a distinguished record and has proven his ability to enforce the law with conviction and courage,” Pomeroy added. “We are confident he will make a fine U.S. attorney, upholding the Constitution and protecting all North Dakotans.”
In a written statement to Fox News, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) also defended Purdon.
“Tim Purdon is a talented attorney with a distinguished legal record. As has been stated previously, Senator Conrad has complete confidence in Mr. Purdon’s ability to enforce the law and serve the people of North Dakota,” Conrad wrote.
If confirmed, Purdon would replace Drew Wrigley, who was the district’s U.S. Attorney from 2001 until Sept. 11, 2009. The district’s current acting U.S. Attorney is Lynn C. Jordheim.
Posted in News | 1 Comment »
A former federal prosecutor has lost the Democratic primary to fill President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat, finishing second in a five-candidate field.
David Hoffman, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago under Patrick Fitzgerald, received almost 34 percent of the Democratic Senate primary votes on Tuesday, trailing Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who captured 39 percent of the ballots.
The battle was for the right to appear on the November general election ballot to fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Roland Burris. Burris was appointed early last year to finish Obama’s Senate term but decided not to seek election to a full term.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press called the election for Giannoulias, who earned 39 percent of the vote. He was followed by Hoffman with 33.8 percent, Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson with 19.7 percent, physician Robert Marshall with 5.7 percent and attorney Jacob Meister with 1.8 percent.
Hoffman, who was a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois from 1998 to 2005, came under fire from Giannoulias for seeking campaign donations from his former colleagues. He had received endorsements from numerous news organizations, including The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times and numerous politicians and organizations.
Giannoulias will face Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in November. Kirk won the GOP primary on Tuesday with 56.6 percent of the vote. He beat attorney Patrick Hughes who earned 19.3 percent, retired attorney Don Lowery. who got 8.9 percent, historian Kathleen Thomas, who got 7.3 percent, writer Andy Martin, with 5.1 percent, and management consultant John Arrington who garnered just 2.8 percent of the vote.
Posted in News | 1 Comment »
Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, were among the guests at a surprise birthday party for First Lady Michelle Obama Saturday night at Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama hosted the dinner for his wife at the upscale Dupont Circle organic restaurant, according to the White House pool report. Of the 10 guests, Holder was the only Cabinet member in attendance. Michelle Obama turned 46 today.
Other guests included Marian Robinson, the First Lady’s mother; Valerie Jarrett, special adviser to the president; Eric and Cheryl Whitaker, friends of the Obamas from Chicago; Mary Nesbitt, a friend from Chicago; Susan Sher, the First Lady’s chief of staff; Elizabeth Alexander, who recited a poem at Obama’s inauguration; Cindy Moelis, a Chicagoan and director of the White House Fellows program; Anita Blanchard, the obstetrician who delivered Sasha and Malia Obama; and Jocelyn Frye, director of policy and projects in the First Lady’s office.
The dinner lasted nearly four hours, with Holder and his wife among the last of the group to leave, according to the pool report. After the Obamas left the restaurant a group of 50 bystanders who had gathered outside sang “Happy Birthday.”
Posted in News | 1 Comment »
A former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago is asking prosecutors to open their (not very fat) wallets for his U.S. Senate campaign.
In a fundraising event flier, David H. Hoffman, who worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago from 1998 to 2005, suggests that current Assistant U.S. Attorneys donate a “minimum” of $150, while friends, guests, co-hosts and sponsors are asked to donate more.
Hoffman, who was most recently the inspector general for the City of Chicago, is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).
The flier wasn’t sent to current assistant U.S. attorneys, although it was sent to the homes of 352 former prosecutors, campaign spokesman Thom Karmik said, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Clout Street blog. The prosecutors have a lower “suggested minimum” donation, Karmik said, because “They make less than attorneys in private practice.”
According to Randall Samborn, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Assistant U.S. Attorneys can make campaign contributions; attend political fundraisers and rallies; and campaign for or against candidates without violating civil service rules and the Hatch Act, The Tribune reported. However, AUSAs are not allowed to participate in politics on government time or solicit or raise campaign donations.
Along with the donation request, Hoffman distributed an open letter from Scott Lassar, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who is co-hosting the Nov. 3 event along with former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Berkowitz, John Gallo and Lori Lightfoot.
“One of the best decisions I made at the U.S. Attorneys Office was hiring David Hoffman. David was a brilliant AUSA who chose to devote himself to gang and gun cases because it made a difference in some of our neediest communities. He initiated successful innovations in the Project Safe Neighborhoods program, including addressing groups of people being released on probation.
David next transformed the City of Chicago’s Office of Inspector General into a model of integrity and competence.
Now David is running in the Democratic primary for United States Senate. As many of you know, David would be a terrific Senator. He is bright, pragmatic, hard working, and eloquent. Those of you who don’t know him will soon find out.”
Burris was appointed in December by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to the seat previously held by Barack Obama, sparking a political uproar. Fitzgerald — who is also Hoffman’s former boss — was investigating Blagojevich in a pay-t0-play corruption probe and had accused the governor of being on “political crime spree.” The Senate at first refused to seat Burris, but later relented. Burris has said he won’t seek election next year.
Other candidates for the Feb. 2 Democratic primary are state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, businessman Stan Jagla, Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Robinson Jackson, write-in candidate Robert Jones, frequent candidate Robert Marshall and attorney Jacob Meister.
Posted in News | 7 Comments »
Dan Watkins, a real estate attorney who was an adviser to President Obama’s presidential campaign in Kansas, said he is no longer interested in becoming Kansas’ U.S. Attorney, The Associated Press reported. Watkins previously declined to endorse reports that he had been recommended to become the district’s next top prosecutor.
Watkins told The AP that the more he considered the position the more he wanted to stay in his current job. “I think it fits best for me to keep doing what I’m doing,” Watkins told The Lawrence Journal-World. He added, “I like what I’m doing.”
Posted in News | Comments Off
Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), a 2008 Republican presidential candidate and fierce opponent of illegal immigration, is criticizing the nomination of Stephanie Villafuerte for District of Colorado U.S. Attorney.
President Barack Obama officially nominated Villafuerte (University of Denver, University of California at Los Angeles) on Sept. 30. The deputy chief of staff to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) would be the first Latina to serve as Colorado’s top federal prosecutor.
In a column on the conservative WorldNetDaily Web site, Tancredo cites a controversy from Ritter’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign against Republican Bob Beauprez that resulted in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent losing his job.
The agent, Cory Voorhis, was acquitted of charges he improperly accessed a federal crime database for information the Beauprez campaign used to make a campaign ad that attacked Ritter for reaching plea agreement with illegal immigrants when he was the Denver District Attorney. One of those undocumented immigrants was Carlos Estrada-Medina, an accused heroin dealer.
After the ad was released, Villafuerte called a staffer at the DA’s office and apparently asked about Estrada-Medina. The DA’s office also accessed the same information as Voorhis in the National Crime Information Computer database.
The DA’s office said that the check on Estrada-Medina was done in response to media calls. But records released by the DA’s office in response to a request by The Denver Post “show no such media deluge. Instead, they indicate that the DA office’s work on Estrada-Medina also had its roots in a campaign,” the newspaper reported in 2008.
Voorhis lost his job over the matter. Tancredo thinks there’s a double standard.
“As the U.S. attorney, will Stephanie Villafuerte offer help in investigating the corruption, perjury and malfeasance rampant in the Denver regional office of ICE?,” writes Tancredo. “Will she be an advocate for the effective enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws after participating in the disgusting vendetta against ICE agent Cory Voorhis? The answer to those questions is probably … no se puede,” wrote Tancredo.
WND is home to conservative conspiracy theories on everything from Obama’s citizenship to the belief that health care reform would lead to “concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.” Recent headlines include “Will your thoughts be subject to hate crime laws?” and “How to survive the coming martial law in America.”
If confirmed, Villafuerte would replace Acting U.S. Attorney for Colorado David Gaouette, who has been in the position since Jan. 10 after Bush appointee Troy A. Eid resigned. Gaouette’s current 120-day extension expires on Dec. 8, at which point the U.S. District Court for Colorado would appoint a interim U.S. Attorney until a presidential nominee is sworn in.
Posted in News | 6 Comments »
The Office of Special Counsel says in a new report it found no evidence to support a whistle-blower’s claims that the U.S. Attorney’s office for Middle District of Alabama acted inappropriately in its public corruption prosecution of former Gov. Donald E. Siegelman (D) and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
The OSC launched the investigation following allegations by Tamarah Grimes, a former paralegal in the office, who alleged officials in the district did not report improper jury communications, among other things. The OSC is an independent agency with jurisdiction only to look into Grimes’s claims that she was retaliated against as a whistle-blower. She was fired in July, which she said was due to her attempt to expose the misconduct - a claim the DOJ denied.
Grimes also claimed the Middle District caused the government to incur unnecessary costs due to gross mismanagement. She said victim impact funds were misused and that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary abused her authority by obstructing an Office of Personal Responsibility investigation into the conduct of Assistant U.S. Attorney Randolph Neely. She also said officials launched a DOJ Office of Inspector General investigation into her conduct following her whistle-blowing.
Then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey ordered an investigation, which was headed by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis and conducted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ronald R. Gallegos of Arizona and Steven K. Mullins of the Western District of Oklahoma. After DOJ determined Grimes’ claims were unfounded, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and House Judiciary commercial and administration law subcommittee Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) requested an additional investigation.
The second investigation by OSC “confirmed DOJ’s initial investigation findings that no improper communication with the jury occurred,” according to this analysis of disclosures, agency investigations and reports, by William E. Reukauf, associate special counsel at OSC. The report is broken into eight parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8. Reukauf signed off on the second investigation in a letter to President Obama.
Siegelman argues he was targeted for prosecution for political reasons. He has appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court.
Posted in News | Comments Off
President Obama notified the Senate of his choice to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, the White House announced tonight.
Laurie O. Robinson was named the Acting Assistant Attorney General/Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at OJP in January. The White House sent her nomination to the Senate tonight, but Obama announced in May that he intended to tap Robinson for the post.
She previously served as the OJP Assistant Attorney General from 1993 to 2000. During her tenure as President Clinton’s OJP chief, the annual appropriations for the office grew from $800 million in 1993 to more than $4 billion in 2000, according to her biography.
Prior to her time at DOJ, Robinson was the director of the American Bar Association’s section of criminal justice for 14 years.
If confirmed, Robinson would replace Bush OJP head Jeffrey Sedgwick, who resigned in January.
Posted in News | Comments Off
The acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Matt Whitworth, has been appointed to a U.S. magistrate judgeship, a U.S. district court announced today.
Whitworth will succeed William A. Knox, who will retire in January. Whitworth, a 20-year veteran of the Western District, has led the office since February.
The Western District hit turbulence during the Bush administration.
Former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves was one of the nine prosecutors fired by the Bush administration. Graves was replaced by Bradley Schlozman, the controversial former Civil Rights Division official who served as interim U.S. Attorney until 2007. (Attorney General Eric Holder recently decided not to prosecute Schlozman for giving misleading testimony to Congress about partisan hiring decisions at the DOJ. Click here to read our story.) Schlozman was succeeded by John F. Wood, who resigned in February after President Obama took office.
Obama has yet to nominate a new U.S. Attorney to lead the office. Patrick McInerney, a Kansas City, Mo. lawyer with Husch Blackwell Sanders, and Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan are possible candidates for the job, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.
Posted in News | Comments Off
U.S. Attorney recommendations for the Northern District of Georgia were submitted months ago, but one of the candidates has run into a few bumps, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last weekend.
Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Yates “apparently was on the short list, then off, then on again,” The Journal-Constitution said.
In April, a state screening panel told the Democratic members of Georgia’s congressional delegation that Yates, Atlanta lawyer Jeffrey Berhold and Rome, Ga., lawyer Christopher Twyman were its top choices to succeed U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, who resigned to take a seat on the Georgia supreme court. Because Georgia’s two U.S. senators are Republicans, the Democratic House members get to advise President Obama on the position.
But then, Yates mysteriously disappeared from the list of recommended candidates that the members of Congress sent to the White House in May, the newspaper reported. The lawmakers replaced her with another, unidentified candidate who was not recommended by the screening panel, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The White House then asked the Georgia Democrats to put Yates back on the list. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the senior Democrat in Georgia’s delegation, resubmitted her name this summer for consideration, according to The Journal-Constitution.
Former Rep. George “Buddy” Darden (D-Ga.), who chaired the screening panel, told the newspaper that “there is nothing unique” about the back-and-forth over the Yates recommendation.
Yates’ prosecution of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell in a public corruption case could be the source of some of her problems, according to the newspaper. Campbell once submitted a complaint about Yates to the Justice Department. The ex-mayor said the prosecutor was seeking revenge against him because he did not endorse her husband, Comer Yates, in a Democratic primary. The Justice Department did not find any evidence that Yates was trying to retaliate against Campbell, who was convicted on tax evasion charges.
The Journal-Constitution also speculated that Yates’s failure to donate to Obama’s presidential campaign might have hurt her chances. This doesn’t sound likely to us, since prosecutors are not supposed to appear partisan, and Yates’s husband more than made up for it by giving Obama $2,300. Twyman and his wife, by contrast, donated only $500 each. Berhold gave $2,000 to Obama, along with thousands of dollars to Georgia Democrats.
The White House could announce a nominee as early as this week, people close to the process told WABE News, the public broadcaster in Atlanta.