From Think Progress:
Mary 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 [of] 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. […]
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.”
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.
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (November 9, 2008):
As part of a long-standing tradition, the country’s 93 U.S. attorneys offer to resign following the election of a president from another party, though most stay in their posts temporarily to help ensure a smooth transition, said Dick Thornburgh, a former Pennsylvania governor, U.S. attorney general and U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania. U.S. attorneys serve at the discretion of the president.
President Bill Clinton replaced 89 U.S. attorneys and President George W. Bush replaced 88 during their respective first two years in office.
Obama is expected to accept the vast majority of resignations from U.S. attorneys and other top-level Republican appointees, especially those with close political ties to the Bush administration, said Bert Rockman, chairman of the political science department at Purdue University.
[…] Buchanan has been criticized for bringing politically motivated investigations and charges against politicians in Western Pennsylvania, none more so than the public corruption case against Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, a forensic pathologist and former Allegheny County coroner. Buchanan has steadfastly denied those allegations, but she was questioned by Congressional investigators looking into whether the Justice Department encouraged selective prosecutions of certain political figures.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
As top federal law enforcement officer in the Western District, Ms. Buchanan has pursued charges in several high-profile cases. They include the prosecution of four members of the Allegheny County sheriff’s office; a drug paraphernalia case against comic Tommy Chong for selling bongs online; and an unusual case against Extreme Associates, a California company that makes graphic pornography.
Perhaps the most controversial is the ongoing case against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht on charges of misusing his public office to gain privately in his pathology business.
She has said that she will continue that work.
What horrible crimes did Dr. Wecht allegedly commit? From Salon (April 11, 2008):
Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. Attorney in Pittsburgh, has long been the subject of questions about partisan prosecutions. But in 2006, Buchanan raised more than a few eyebrows when she went after former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht, indicting him on multiple counts of various federal crimes, including theft from an organization that receives federal funds.
What, exactly, did Wecht do? Apparently, his transgressions included the improper use of the coroner’s fax machine for private work. There was no evidence “of a bribe or kickback” and no evidence that Wecht traded on a conflict of interest.
But Wecht’s a Democrat, and for a U.S. Attorney anxious to impress her superiors in the Bush administration, apparently that was enough.
This week, a jury mulled over Buchanan’s case against Wecht. The case ended, at least in the short term, with a hung jury [after 50 hours of deliberation].
The jury foreman, who requested anonymity in light of the judge’s request that jurors not yet speak publicly, told the Pittsburg Post-Gazette that he went into the trial with an open mind, but “as the case went on my thoughts were this was being politically driven.”
By the way, there were originally 84 counts (maybe she indicted him for each sheet of paper that came through the fax machine?), but prosecutors dismissed 43 of them. They wanted the charges dismissed with prejudice so that they could bring them again, but the judge said Nuh-uhhh!!!
Okay, kids, just one more snippet. This one is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (March 18, 2007):
[…] Ms. Buchanan has put a special emphasis on public corruption during her tenure.
In the last two years, her office has successfully prosecuted four ranking members of the Allegheny County sheriff’s office, including the former sheriff.
And last summer, after a lengthy investigation into the handling of a firefighters’ union contract by former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, Ms. Buchanan announced that he would not face charges.
All of the public officials she has targeted have been Democrats, in part, of course, because most officeholders in Allegheny County are Democrats.
But allegations of wrongdoing have also come up against some Republicans here over the years. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was heavily criticized for saying that his family lived in Penn Hills — requiring the school district there to pay the cost for his children to attend a cyber school — while they were really in Virginia.
An employee of U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, was fired after alleging that congressional staff and resources were being used for campaign work.
And local charges were filed against then-state Rep. Jeff Habay, R-Shaler, for ordering his staff to do campaign work on public time.
None of those cases resulted in criminal charges in federal court, and Ms. Buchanan would not comment on whether there were any investigations.
A recently released study by two retired communication professors found that under the Bush administration, the Department of Justice has investigated elected Democratic officeholders and office seekers locally seven times more than their Republican counterparts.
The authors looked at 375 federal criminal cases across the country that targeted public officials from 2001 to 2006.
They found that of those, 298 defendants were Democrats; 67 were Republicans and 10 were independents.
That number comes despite a statistic that shows that Democratic officeholders outnumber Republicans nationally by only 50 percent to 41 percent, said one of the authors, Donald C. Shields, a professor emeritus of communication at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
“Pittsburgh’s a big town, but you have a hundred little towns,” Mr. Shields said. “It shouldn’t be hard [to find a Republican] if they’re investigating fairly. They didn’t just swear to uphold the law where Democrats hold office.”