About one-third of the nearly four dozen U.S. attorney’s jobs that have changed hands since President Bush began his second term have been filled with trusted administration insiders, reports the Washington Post. People chosen as chief federal prosecutors on a temporary or permanent basis include 10 senior aides to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Several came from the White House or other government agencies. Some lacked experience as prosecutors or had no connection to the districts in which they were sent to work.
No other administration in recent times has had such a clear pattern of filling chief prosecutors’ jobs with its own staff members, said experts. Those experts said the emphasis in appointments traditionally has been on local roots and deference to home-state senators, whose support has been crucial to win confirmation of the nominees. The interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., Bradley Schlozman, was a deputy in Justice’s civil rights division who helped overrule career government lawyers in approving a Texas redistricting plan pushed by Tom DeLay (R-Tx.), then House majority leader. The White House later nominated a permanent replacement, John Wood, counselor to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. Neither Schlozman nor Wood has been a prosecutor before. James Eisenstein, a Pennsylvania State University political scientist who has written a book on U.S. attorneys, said that historically, federal prosecutors have regarded operating “in a politically neutral, nonpartisan manner” as a cornerstone of their roles. Hiring people from the Justice Department, he said, “was very unusual.”