Politics

A New Attorney Scandal? Bush-Appointed U.S. Attorney Won’t Vacate Office Under Obama

mary.gifMary Beth Buchanan was appointed by President Bush to serve as U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh in Sept. 2001. Buchanan has held several significant posts within the Bush/Ashcroft/Gonzales Justice Department, most notably serving as director the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.

Just last month, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Buchanan’s reign was expected to end. Indeed, when a new president is elected, U.S. attorneys of both parties generally submit their resignations to make way for the new appointees. But Buchanan has other plans:

Despite a new administration coming into power, U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said she plans to stick around.

“It doesn’t serve justice for all the U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations all at one time,” she said yesterday. […]

More than that, she said she would consider working in the Obama administration. She would not discuss what her future might hold beyond the U.S. attorney’s office.

“I am open to considering further service to the United States,” Ms. Buchanan said.

She’s been described by colleagues as the quintessential loyal Bushie. “She is very focused to the department first of all,” said one assistant U.S. attorney, who asked not to be named. “She’s not independent, and I don’t think she wants to be.”

During her tenure, Buchanan has been criticized for bringing politically-motivated investigations and charges against politicians in Western Pennsylvania, none more famous than the public corruption case against a local high-profile Democrat Dr. Cyril H. Wecht. Former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh told Congress that the Wecht prosecution is “not the type of case normally constituting a federal ‘corruption’ case brought against a local official.”

Buchanan hired Monica Goodling, and she hand-picked a Pittsburgh attorney to serve as the U.S. prosecutor in Alaska, going over the heads of Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski. She also had a peripheral role in the U.S. attorney scandal:

She did talk with [Gonzales chief of staff Kyle] Sampson about some of the prosecutors who were ultimately fired, including Carol Lam, U.S. attorney in the Southern District of California…

But the most involvement Ms. Buchanan seemed to have in the firings, according to the report, was in meeting with former U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan of the Northern District of California.

Buchanan “has been criticized because her office has brought a number of high-profile cases against Democrats during her tenure, but rarely targeted members of her own party.” And now Buchanan wants to volunteer her services to President-elect Obama.