“Let’s Try a Truly Merit-based System for Picking U.S. Attorneys”.

Virginia Lawyers Weekly, citing the The Roanoke Times, is reporting that Timothy Heaphy appears to have been chosen to be the next United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. ((Peter Vieth. “Heaphy may be choice for US Attorney.” 6 May 2008. The VLW blog. <http://www.valawyersweekly.com/vlwblog/2009/05/06/heaphy-may-be-choice-for-us-attorney/>.)) ((Mike Gangloff. “Richmond lawyer apparent pick for Western District U.S. attorney.” 6 May 2009. The Roanoke Times. <http://www.roanoke.com/news/breaking/wb/203785>.)) For those unfamiliar with the nomination process for U.S. Attorneys, the Senators representing the state — in this case, Jim Webb and Mark Warner — nominate lawyers to the President who ultimately makes the decision.

I really know very little about Timothy Heaphy, but I do know this: On August 8, 2006, Heaphy contributed $500 to Jim Webb’s (D) campaign. ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?27020221757>.)) On February 27, 2008, Heaphy contributed $500 to Mark Warner’s (D) campaign; he contributed another $200 to Warner (D) on September 15, 2008. ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28020162256>.)) ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28020573333>.)) He contributed $401 to Barack Obama’s election campaign on February 22, 2008 and another $1,000 to the “Obama Victory Fund” on October 24, 2008. ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28930938587>.)) ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28934785774>.)) He’s also contributed $500 to the “Forward Together PAC”, a Democratic leadership PAC on May 19, 2006. ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?26950184768>.)) He’s also contributed $1,000 ($500 on March 26, 2008, and another $500 on September 28, 2008) to Representative Tom Perriello’s (D) election campaign against Virgil Goode. ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28990842857>.)) ((Federal Election Commission. <http://images.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/fecimg/?28933520860>.))

And folks, that’s just for federal candidates. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, Heaphy has contributed $2,037 to various state candidates and PACs, all Democratic in nature: $500 to Tim Kaine (D) for Governor (12/10/2003), ((Virginia Public Access Project.)) $200 to Creigh Deeds for Attorney General (08/08/2005), ((Virginia Public Access Project.)) $250 to “Moving Virginia Forward” a leadership PAC of Tim Kaine’s (04/27/2007), ((Virginia Public Access Project.)) $247 in-kind to Constance Brennan for Delegate (09/14/2007), ((Virginia Public Access Project.)) $300 to Creigh Deeds for Governor (06/30/2008), ((Virginia Public Access Project.)) $300 to Brian Moran for Governor (06/30/2008), ((Virginia Public Access Project.)) and $240 in-kind to Steve Shannon for Attorney General (12/12/2008). ((Virginia Public Access Project.))

Timothy Heaphy may be an exceptional prosecutor and may do a great job prosecuting cases in the Western District of Virginia, after all, he has a dozen years of prosecutorial experience in federal courts, however, it still looks like political cronyism. And ironically enough, Heaphy penned an article for Legal Times titled “Good Choice, Sir: Let’s Try a Truly Merit-based System for Picking U.S. Attorneys”.

1 Comment

  1. michael says:

    It’s a fair concern, and it’s good that you and others like you are acting in a watchdog capacity to monitor this sort of thing.

    I think the real concern here is with a system that doesn’t provide assurances to people like you and me that federal appointments are based on merit–not with this particular appointment itself. Of course, that’s easy for me to say–I go to church with Tim Heaphy and know him from local law and local politics, and know him to be one of the smartest, most upstanding people I could imagine to hold this post, and I know he will serve the Justice Department and the people of the Commonwealth well in his new job.

    But one shouldn’t have to know the guy to know that he deserved it, so I’ll leave you with a rhetorical question, and one designed to maybe hone the approach to the problem at hand:

    First: Would you even _want_ a federal appointee to be someone who had never shown an interest in government and civic life?

    Second: If we can’t just say that contributors can’t get appointed, let’s try to think about how we can provide added transparency and accountability to the federal appointment process so that we’re weeding out any quid-pro-quo behavior and providing assurances to the public when appointments are deserved, without limiting ourselves from appointing well-qualified people who also happen to be politically engaged.

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