Thursday, June 26, 2008


Mary Beth Buchanan

OK, I have a prediction, totally out of left field. A name you probably haven't heard of at all, but soon will be hearing A LOT in connection with the DoJ politicization/prosecutors' purge scandal. Mary Beth Buchanan. Mark my words. And I'll tell you why.

TPM Muckraker has this profile of Esther Slater McDonald, one of the two DOJ operatives fingered for winnowing through job applicants to exclude anyone with a liberal background or affiliations. The other one is Michael Elston, the former chief of staff for then deputy attorney general Paul McNulty. Muckraker contributor Kate Klonick mentions that Ms. McDonald was "ushered into the hallowed halls of Gonzales' DOJ by none other than the Monica Goodling herself."

So that brings up the question, "who hired Monica Goodling?" And the answer is: Mary Beth Buchanan. Buchanan herself is the current US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, appointed by George Bush the Lesser in 2001. As such she is one of the USAs referred to by Paul Krugman when he said last year,
"...In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance."
So, we have:
  • Esther Slater McDonald, implicated (with over 100 references to her in the IG's report) in the politicization of the DOJ.
  • Monica Goodling, who has already admitted under oath to having 'crossed the line' in her involvement in the politicization of the DOJ, hired McDonald.
  • Mary Beth Buchanan, one of the 'many other prosecutors [who] decided to protect their doing what the administration wanted them to do,' hired Goodling.
  • Buchanan was an appointee of pResident George W. Bush, the ultimate 'loyal Bushie'.
And my prediction is that Buchanan will emerge as a key component in the DoJ prosecutors' purge scandal. She is already up to her neck in harassing Democrats: from her Wikipedia entry, read about her involvement in the prosecution persecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht in Pennsylvania:
Dr. Cyril Wecht, a former Allegheny County, Pennsylvania coroner and medical examiner, is a prominent Democrat in the Pittsburgh area. In January 2006, Dr. Wecht was indicted by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan on 84 counts of fraud and theft relating to using his public office for private gain. Dr. Wecht's lawyers claimed that some of these charges involved $3.96 worth of faxes, and $1,778.55 worth of gasoline and mileage bills charged to the state.[15][16] Buchanan was known for her high-profile prosecutions and investigations of prominent Democrats such as Sheriff Pete DeFazio, the mayor Tom Murphy, and a County Judge, Joseph Jaffe.

Before Wecht's trial, the prosecution moved to dismiss 43 of the 84 counts without prejudice. The judge rejected the motion and dismissed the 43 charges with prejudice, which permanently bars the revival of the charges. Wecht's defense counsel claimed that his prosecution was politically motivated. The initial indictment was announced in early 2006, before the November 2006 elections. During the trial, the judge barred the defense from arguing that the case was politically motivated. Even though no discussions about possible political motivations were allowed during the trial, the jury foreman told reporters after the trial that some jurors began to see the prosecution as "political". In an interview post trial with a local news station, one juror expressed her concern about that case when she stated "I don't know if politically motivated or not, but it seemed to me that the motivations were certainly less than pure. There was something behind it other than seeking justice."
So this might be the second most prominent political hatchet job to come out of the Bush Department of Injustice, eclipsed only by the railroading of Alabama's true governor, Don Siegelman.

Wikipedia also notes that, "critics of Mary Beth Buchanan have claimed that she has embarked on several high profile public corruption cases that have exclusively targeted Democratic politicians such as former Sheriff Pete DeFazio, [and] former Mayor Tom Murphy."

She was also the force behind the prosecution persecution of actor/comedian Tommy Chong in 2003 for selling bongs over the internet. Chong spent 9 months in jail over this. When he got out, he made a documentary about his case, The United States of America vs. Tommy Chong - which resulted in a raid and confiscation of 10,000 DVD copies of the movie, in violation of Chong's First Amendment rights. Nice.

The other side of Krugman's observation holds too. Along with the harassment of Democrats, Buchanan was turning a blind eye towards Republican malfeasance.
One critic, Allegheny County Democratic Chairman Jim Burn stated that ”Her record speaks for itself. I've seen a long line of Democrats and mistakes aren't made based on party affiliation but I haven't seen anybody from the other side going though that system." Mr. Burns pointed to the fact that Mary Beth Buchanan’s Office refused to investigate former Republican Senator Rick Santorum who got a tuition reimbursement for his kids by claiming a Penn Hills residency when his family spends most of its time in Virginia as an example of an alleged double standard. "You have to ask yourself the misrepresentations of a Republican such as Rick Santorum made about his alleged residency in Penn Hills were significant," said Burn.
This brings us around to the main event: her involvement in the Prosecutors' Purge scandal at DOJ. More from her Wikipedia entry:

In April of 2007, Kyle Sampson, the former Gonzales aide, raised Ms. Buchanan's name to judiciary committee investigators during his April testimony. Mr. Sampson said that Ms. Buchanan was among the DOJ officials he consulted about which of the U.S. attorneys should be asked to resign. [36]

In May of 2007, Monica Goodling told committee members that she knew Ms. Buchanan had discussed the firings with Mr. Sampson.
After learning this information, the House Judiciary Committee requested an interview with Mary Beth Buchanan in June of 2006. Committee staff members privately questioned Buchanan. She had served as director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys in 2004 and 2005 when discussions were held within the Justice Department concerning which of the country's 93 top federal prosecutors should be dismissed. Buchanan has denied any involvement in the firings. After the interviews, it was reported that Mary Beth Buchanan used another exit to leave the federal building where the interviews were conducted and headed directly to the airport for a flight back to Pittsburgh without providing statements on the proceedings. Buchanan has denied any involvement in the firings of the US Attorneys and has denied that the prosecutions of key Democratic politicians in the Western PA area was driven by political factors.
I must be the suspicious type, because I find Buchanan's denial that politics played a part in the prosecution persecution of Democrats somewhat hard to believe, especially in light of this piece from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "
Motive of Wecht deal talks questioned
Thursday, June 07, 2007
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Federal prosecutors approached defense lawyers for forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht last week to talk about resolving his criminal case, just days before U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan's scheduled closed-door interview with House Judiciary Committee investigators.

Dr. Wecht's attorneys allege that Ms. Buchanan, in the spotlight for her role in the expanding investigation into the firings of U.S. attorneys and vetting of candidates, is trying to quell what they have all along characterized as a political prosecution.

"None of this is coincidence," said defense attorney Jerry McDevitt, of the timing of the prosecution's request to meet. "She wants to make sure we keep our mouths shut while she's down there before Congress."
Making sure that certain people keep their mouths shut seems to be a constant in the pursuit of truth in this affair. Government employees seem always to be either pleading ignorance, pleading the fifth or pleading amnesia when asked why these particular prosecutors were fired at the time they were (Dec. 7, 2006.) Again, I'm the suspicious type, so it sounds more like Omerta than amnesia to me.

So this leads to my final question. With the sworn testimony of two witnesses against her, and her own denial of involvement having NOT been made under oath, but in a private interview, why has the House Judiciary Committee NOT put Mary Beth Buchanan under oath and asked these questions again? I'm curious to see if we have another victim of contagious amnesia here. If not, and we could get some straight answers out of Ms. Buchanan, I think it would blow this case wide open.


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