Bush-appointed U.S. attorneys refuse to leave Justice Dept.
Jeremy Gantz
Published: Friday January 16, 2009


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George W. Bush will leave the White House for good on Tuesday, but two controversial U.S. attorneys appointed by him have no intention of leaving the Justice Department.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan of Pittsburgh, a member of the conservative Federalist Society who is close to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, pledged last month to remain in her post.

And U.S. Attorney Alice Martin of Birmingham, whose conduct has been the subject of repeated investigations by Congress and the Justice Department’s ethics office, several of which are still pending, will stay on in her post, The Daily Beast reported Friday.

"With the new administration approaching, [Martin] made clear her desire to hold on to her post as U.S. attorney for another year of prosecutions," the Daily Beast wrote. "Her Kafkaesque argument: she is targeting corrupt Democratic politicians and investigating others. Therefore, her removal under these circumstances and replacement by an Obama appointee would be 'unseemly.'"

Political appointees to the Justice Department traditionally tender their resignation when a new president moves into the White House; Buchanan and Martin would apparently rather be fired. Their contrariness is particularly notable given a brand-new internal Justice Department report that includes unprecedented details regarding the department's politicized atmosphere.

The report, issued Tuesday, found that a former top official in the department's Civil Rights Division regularly hired Republicans and Federalist Society members for nonpolitical posts, giving them high-profile assignments on civil rights cases, the New York Times reported.

"The report makes its case against [Bradley] Schlozman in his own words, drawn from e-mail and voice mail messages to colleagues and underlings, as he talked about reshaping the political makeup of the Civil Rights Division and doing away with “pinko” and “crazy lib” lawyers and others he did not consider 'real Americans,'" the Times wrote.

But although the report from the inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department said Schlozman gave false statements to Congress when he denied factoring politics into his hiring decisions, last week federal prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Schlozman, who left the department in 2007, the Times reported.

Critics have accused Buchanan and Martin of prosecuting partisan and frivolous cases.

After her appointment by Bush in 2001, Buchanan led a $12 million dollar law enforcement operation called Operation Pipedream, which aimed to criminalize online vendors of water pipes. That program led to charges brought against 55 people, including Tommy Chong, of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong.

And as The Daily Beast writes, Martin has proven her willingness to pursue partisan prosecutions. Excerpts from the Beast's article follow...

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Martin gained a nationwide reputation through two failed prosecutions: the first of HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy for fraud relating to the collapse of the former health insurance giant; and the other of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Her conduct has been the subject of repeated investigations by Congress and the Justice Department's ethics office, several of which are still pending. In the course of the last year, Martin has undertaken sweeping investigations targeting a large part of the state's Democratic legislators and the Democratic mayor and city administration in Birmingham. She manages these cases in close collaboration with friendly Republican oriented media, which usually feature detailed accounts of her investigations and her proposed proof as the investigations conclude and arrests are undertaken.

Martin has a flair for drama. One of her targets is a 63-year-old retired social studies teacher from Huntsville named Sue Schmitz, who was taken from her home at the crack of dawn and manhandled by five FBI agents who tore her skin and left her bleeding as she was dragged out of her bathroom. Schmitz was accused of underperforming on a contract to teach underprivileged children for which she was to receive $50,000 per annum. Why was a retired social studies teacher suddenly the object of a massive multi-million dollar federal prosecution? Critics say the answer to that question is easy: she is a Democratic member of the state legislature and the Republicans want her seat. At Schmitz's trial, any discussion of political motive was suppressed by the judge, but the case ended in a hung jury. Martin has promised to retry the case, at a cost of further millions of dollars. Other targets of Martin's campaign to rid the state of corrupt politicians, which appears to target only Democrats, include Birmingham mayor Larry Langford and State Sen. E.B. McClain. She is reported to be preparing charges against as many as a dozen other Democratic members of the state legislature.

Martin previously coveted an appointment as a federal judge, but her efforts fell flat, largely as a result of mounting questions over her prosecutorial record. With the new administration approaching, she made clear her desire to hold on to her post as U.S. attorney for another year of prosecutions... Martin has enlisted the support of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a member of the Judiciary Committee, in her bid to become a holdover. Alabama Democrats, however, led by Cong. Artur Davis do not cotton to Martin's scheme. They recently sent the Obama transition team a slate of recommendations, focusing on candidates with strong federal prosecutorial experience and a minimum of political baggage.

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