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Politicizing Justice? Obama names DNC member Tim Purdon as a U.S. Attorney

February 5, 2010 |  2:14 am

President Obama has named Tim Purdon as the chief federal prosecutor for North Dakota.

As of early Friday morning, the White House transparent appointments website was not displaying the name of the 41-year-old Bismarck trial lawyer as being an Obama appointee.

Democrat attorney, donor and fundraiser Tim Purdon

But the White House released his name on Thursday and the entire North Dakota congressional delegation has already issued a public congratulations on his appointment.

According to the news release from Rep. Earl Pomeroy and Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, all Democrats:

“Tim is an outstanding choice for U.S. Attorney. He is well respected and an example of how dedication, education, and hard work pay off.  He has a distinguished record and has proven his ability to enforce the law with conviction and courage,” the Congressional delegation said in a joint statement. 

“We are confident he will make a fine U.S. Attorney, upholding the Constitution and protecting all North Dakotans.”

Purdon is a prominent Democratic donor and fundraiser, a national committeeman and was state chairman for the aborted presidential campaign of John Edwards, another trial lawyer.

In a news release about Purdon and another nominee Obama was quoted as saying he has "no doubt that they will be relentless in their pursuit of justice."

Purdon tells the Bismarck Tribune he's "humbled" by the president's nomination and looks forward to Senate confirmation and starting work as replacement for the acting U.S. Attorney, Lynn Jordheim, who's been serving in the job since September when Drew Wrigley, a Bush appointee, resigned.

According to the Vogel law firm website, Purdon specializes in personal injury lawsuits, criminal defense and class action litigation for the plaintiffs.

A lawyer since 1995, Purdon has no experience as a prosecutor.

Federal Election Commission records, however, show Purdon has donated more than $12,000 in recent years to Obama, Dorgan, Pomeroy and Conrad, among others.

Bill Brudvik, a disappointed candidate for the U.S. Attorney's spot, told the Fargo Forum: "When President Obama said he wanted to restore the independence and dignity of the U.S. attorney’s office, in light of the Alberto Gonzales fiasco, and then appoints a political activist and party fundraiser, it seems a little to me more like ‘politics as usual’ than ‘change we can believe in.’"

To pick Purdon, Obama's Justice Department passed over Asst. U.S. Attorney Janice Morley.

It is, of course, common practice for presidents to name their own supporters to the 93 U.S. Attorney positions around the country, although many do have at least some prosecutorial experience.

When the last president, George W. Bush, tried to replace some U.S. Attorneys, there was such a hue and cry from Congress about a Republican administration "politicizing" the U.S. Justice Department. It was like some Attorneygate. The criticism and denunciations and even congressional hearings continued for some time because it was such a big deal.

Of course, that was when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress.. And they still do. So Obama may have stirred up a real political hornets nest and face some very stern -- oh, wait! In 2008 voters added the White House to the control of Democrats.

So, the chances of a Democratic Congress making a stink for a Democratic president over the White House politicizing the Democratic Justice Department by naming a Democratic National Committee member and Democratic donor as a federal prosecutor is right around the temperature in North Dakota this time of year --  absolute zero.

Nevermind.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Vogel Law Firm   Hat Tip: Scott Hennen

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