Karl Rove’s US Attorney Project, Mary Beth Buchanan Edition

Remember the stated reason Karl Rove gave for firing a bunch of US Attorneys? He saw these US Attorney positions as a great stepping stone for rising political stars.

And now it looks like Mary Beth Buchanan, best known for her politicized prosecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht, may join Chris Christie and Tim Griffin in pursuit of elected office, in her case to run against Blue Dog Jason Altmire.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is pondering a run for Congress to challenge Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire next fall.

Ms. Buchanan, a Republican and appointee of former President George W. Bush, has been considering a run for at least a month, Allegheny County Republican Party Chairman Jim Roddey said yesterday.


Mr. Roddey said he has met with her, and Ms. Buchanan is consulting with state and national Republican leaders to gauge support and her chances against the second-term Democrat from McCandless.

But remember. Buchanan is still the acting US Attorney. Which puts her in the same position Chris Christie got in when it came out he was working politics while still in office.

The county GOP leader said he did not see any ethical qualms with exploring a run while sitting as the chief federal prosecutor for Western Pennsylvania, and said Ms. Buchanan should step down only if she announces her candidacy.

Mr. Altmire, who said he has heard Ms. Buchanan’s name mentioned as a possible opponent, disagreed.

"She’s in a position that’s supposed to be nonpolitical," Mr. Altmire said. "If that’s true, I think it would be an inappropriate use of her time."

Who knows? Maybe like Christie she’ll go on to boast about discussing offering AUSAs political jobs when she wins (though a Congresswoman would have fewer patronage jobs than a Governor to dole out).  Or, maybe like Christie, it’ll become clear she has no platform (save, in Christie’s case, a plan to prevent women like Jane and me from getting mammograms) and her campaign will stall out.

In any case, it’s probably time to start tracking these races as a whole (including whatever race Troy Eid decides he’s going to run for) to monitor how effective the second part of Rove’s scheme to politicize US Attorneys turns out to be.

Mary Beth Buchanan’s Going Away Present: Jack Murtha?

In December, US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan wrote a letter declaring that she would not resign at the end of the Bush Administration.

Last month, Buchanan released a letter stating that she had no intention of submitting her resignation. An ideologically committed Federalist Society member, Buchanan is close to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who actively promoted her as U.S. attorney. Following her appointment in 2001, Buchanan quickly gained the favor and approval of the White House. In the key period of 2004-05, while groundwork was laid for what later became the U.S. attorney’s scandal, Buchanan served as director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the key position at Justice that oversaw all the 94 U.S. attorneys. A later internal Justice Department probe, in which Buchanan figures prominently, highlights the role played by that office in Karl Rove’s plan to sack U.S. attorneys.

She said she had to stick around, at least partly, so she could see her trumped up prosecution of Cyril Wecht through.

The second case is a corruption prosecution of one of the country’s most prominent medical examiners, Dr. Cyril Wecht, also not coincidentally a leading figure in Pittsburgh Democratic politics. The charges brought against Wecht involve a long list of petty accusations, including that he used his office telephone and fax machine for personal matters. These charges happen to bear remarkable similarity to accusations of petty improprieties that flew around Buchanan’s mentor Santorum in the two years before Pennsylvania voters retired him from public life in 2006. Buchanan, however, opted not to pursue any of the accusations surrounding Santorum. Wecht’s defense counsel, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, who served under George H.W. Bush and was governor of Pennsylvania, testified before a House Judiciary inquiry that Buchanan’s prosecution was improper and politically motivated. "It is not the type of case normally constituting a federal ‘corruption’ case brought against a local official," said Thornburgh. "There is no allegation that Dr. Wecht ever solicited or received a bribe or kickback. There is no allegation that Dr. Wecht traded on a conflict of interest in conducting the affairs of his selected office." The case was originally tried before a judge appointed by George W. Bush who, though close to Buchanan, refused to recuse himself and forbade defense counsel in any way from referencing Buchanan’s political motivation. The trial ended in a hung jury, which divided sharply in favor of Wecht’s acquittal. Read more