ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE
Thursday, July 23, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Four months after Sen. Harry Reid recommended bringing back a former Bush appointee as U.S. attorney for Nevada, the Obama administration is still vetting Daniel Bogden.
Jon Summers, a spokesman for Reid, maintains that the Democratic Senate majority leader has not had any second thoughts about Bogden.
But federal prosecutors and politically connected attorneys in Las Vegas who do not support Bogden say the lack of White House action is fueling speculation that Reid’s recommendation has run into trouble.
Since May, the White House has forwarded the names of 13 of the 93 potential U.S. attorney nominees to the U.S. Senate for confirmation. Bogden, one of the earlier recommendations, conspicuously has failed to make the list.
“There’s nothing in his background that would cause any issues,” a lawyer with Beltway ties said. “You would think that someone who already has been cleared for the job and who is from the majority leader’s home state would be easy to nominate, and that just hasn’t happened.”
A federal prosecutor added, “It’s obvious to everybody that something is afoot. Harry Reid is the most powerful person in Congress, and yet the name of his guy isn’t moving forward.”
The White House this week again declined to comment on the status of the recommendation.
The uncertainty over whether Bogden will be nominated is hurting morale within the U.S. attorney’s office and inhibiting it from carrying out the Obama Justice Department’s priorities, one prosecutor complained.
Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Greg Brower, a Republican, has been a lame duck since Obama was elected in November. Everyone knew Brower’s days in the top job were numbered — they just never figured he would get to stay in charge for this long.
“The office appears to be in a state of confusion and flux with no real sense of leadership in place,” said one federal prosecutor, who, along with others working under Brower spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Reid recommended Bogden in March, but prominent Nevada Democrats are still calling the senator’s office to voice concerns about the selection. Some prosecutors also have made it known they would leave the U.S. attorney’s office if Bogden comes back.
Bogden, who did not return phone calls from the Sun, has been criticized for his lack of leadership skills and outreach to the community.
Jeff Stempel, a professor at the UNLV Boyd School of Law, said Bogden’s chances of landing the top federal prosecutor’s job again isn’t being helped by the scandal over Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair. Ensign, a Nevada Republican, has been a big Bogden supporter.
If Bogden were to be brought back as U.S. attorney, he could end up playing a role in a potential criminal investigation of Ensign over the affair, Stempel said.
“It really doesn’t help Bogden’s chances at all to be so close to Ensign at this time when there’s some serious conversation about whether the circumstances surrounding Ensign’s extramarital affair may be investigated,” Stempel said.
Another federal prosecutor added, “The appearance is just horrible. And in this business, appearance is everything.”
Ensign recommended the Bush administration appoint Bogden U.S. attorney eight years ago. At the time, Bogden, a registered nonpartisan, was a career prosecutor in the office. He served more than five years at the office’s helm until he was fired in late 2006 in what some on Capitol Hill described as a political purge by the Bush administration.
Ensign, along with Reid, called for Bogden’s reinstatement, as Congress geared up to investigate his firing and those of eight other U.S. attorneys across the country. But Bogden’s professional resurrection didn’t get the boost it needed until after the Bush administration left, when Reid recommended to the new Democratic president that Bogden return to the job.
Reid has said he wanted to right a Bush administration wrong, but his move upset some prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office who felt it was a step backward that did not reflect Obama’s promise of change.
Bogden is seen as someone who, after so many years under Bush, would have trouble fitting into the new, more progressive Justice Department run by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Democratic attorneys who have backed Reid in the past are also upset with the senator. They think he didn’t consult enough with party loyalists before choosing Bogden and is denying the party a key political plum.
“It surprises me that Sen. Reid didn’t see this coming — the possibility that the idea of renominating Bogden would not be universally welcomed within the Democratic Party,” the Beltway-connected lawyer said. “This is why elections matter. This is an important position, and it’s important for party regulars to take advantage of the spoils of their victory.”