Earlier this month we learned that North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon would be leaving his post early to take a job in the private sector. Now South Dakota’s U.S. Attorney, Brendan Johnson, is doing the same. According to the Associated Press, both men are going to be joining Robins Kaplan LLP, a Minneapolis based law firm. They will be opening offices in their respective states.
And no doubt collecting some big bank. Presidential appointees can usually command nice salaries in the private sector.
Already the Bismarck Tribune has feted Purdon for his relatively short time in office, and I’m sure others in the media will be joining in.
What I can’t figure out is why.
It’s not just that Purdon was a nakedly political appointment to what is supposed to be a non-political law enforcement position. President Obama picked him directly from the Democrat National Committee, and one of his first moves after taking office was a stab at prosecuting oil companies for a few dead docks which made him something of a national punchline.
It’s that Purdon actions don’t seem to match his words when it comes to meeting the challenges of his office. Purdon has been very active in highlighting rising crime on the state’s Indian reservations and in the oil patch. “Instead of finding an 8-ball of meth, now you’re finding pounds,” Purdon is quoted as saying in a L.A. Times story published today. “When we serve search warrants now, we don’t just find drugs; we find firearms. Everyone is heavily armed. There are more and more guns.”
I’ve accused this man in the past of exaggeration for political effect, but if we stipulate for a moment that Purdon is providing his honest opinion of the state of things in his jurisdiction, why in the world is he stepping down?
Purdon has been on the job a relatively short amount of time. Due to his hyper-partisan background his nomination wasn’t confirmed until well into the second year of Obama’s first term. Now, Purdon wants to flee to the private sector with two years remaining in the second term?
The man who appointed Purdon to serve as the top federal law enforcement official in North Dakota will have served in 0ffice for 8 years. When Purdon steps down on March 12th, 2015, he will have been in office for just 4 years, 7 months, and 7 days of Obama’s term in office.
Again, if we are to believe what Mr. Purdon tells us about the seriousness of the criminal issues facing North Dakota, what then to make of his decision to step down early after being appointed late?
In the official announcement of Purdon’s resignation we get a laundry list of initiatives he’s implemented during his abbreviated time in office. So why doesn’t Purdon want to see those initiatives to fruition?
When Purdon was first nominated for this position many – including myself – questioned the pick. Purdon has always been seen as an ambitious and career-minded political animal. In leaving office early for a private sector gig, Purdon seems to be proving that accusation true.
It seems Mr. Purdon’s time in office was more about resume building than law enforcement.