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For The Love Of Money?

Looking at the Rachel Paulose situation, I'm interested in the actions, speech and behavior of Paulose's immediate predecessor as United States Attorney for Minnesota, Thomas Heffelfinger.

Now Heffelfinger, whose sudden announcement of his retirement in February 2006 took everyone locally by surprise, has claimed, repeatedly, that he was not forced by the Bush Junta to resign so that Paulose — whose investiture he was not invited to attend even though she had once worked under him, and about whose qualifications he has been rather laconic — could take his place.

There are reasons to doubt this.  Some of them are expressed here, by diarist smit2174 at Minnesota Campaign Report.  In addition, Josh Marshall notes Paulose's Zelig-like tendency to be near the center of the planning of the purging activity. And even the generally-cautious StarTribune (not to mention their much-bolder columnist Nick Coleman) have expressed reasons for suspecting that Heffelfinger was forced out.  But I have some reasons of my own.

Let's look at Heffelfinger's own words.

In a February 2007 piece for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, he is quoted as saying this about the reasons for his sudden and unheralded departure as US Attorney (emphases mine):

“I left for personal and financial reasons and delayed announcing my departure until the last minute to avoid being a lame duck,” Heffelfinger says.

I'll let wiser heads than mine debate the viability of the "not wanting to be a lame duck" rationale, though it sounds pretty hinky to me.  But I'm actually more interested in the personal and financial reasons.

Heffelfinger has said more than once that he was leaving because he needed to go into the private sector so he could make more money.  Well and good.

Except that:

1) He'd done the US Attorney job before (from 1991 to 1993) and liked it well enough despite the allegedly low pay to petition for it again in 2001 when the Republicans claimed the White House (he said in a 2005 interview that "it is the world's best job.  There's no doubt about it, it is just a great job.  There isn't a day here that I don't pinch myself and say how lucky I am to get to do it twice.");

and —

2)  After he left the US Attorney's office in 2006, it took him over three months to find a paying long-term gig with a law firm.  And this was a firm, Best & Flanagan, where he'd been a partner in the past.

Yes, you read that right.  Over. Three. Months.  That's a long time for a high-powered lawyer to go without a payday, especially if his stated rationale for career change is to earn more money.

Do the math:  His official last day as a US Attorney was February 28, 2006.  

His being hired by his old firm, Best & Flanagan, wasn't announced until June 5, 2006:

Best & Flanagan has hired Thomas Heffelfinger, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, the law firm announced Monday.

Heffelfinger will focus on white-collar criminal defense and American Indian law for the Minneapolis-based firm.

His criminal defense practice will concentrate on helping individuals or organizations respond to suspected illegal activity and establish compliance and ethics programs designed to curb white-collar crime.

His American Indian law practice will address self-governance, regulatory compliance, gaming, internal investments and public safety issues.

Heffelfinger said he is looking forward to using his experience as U.S. Attorney to help people in private practice.

Note the constant use of the future tense, which I have helpfully put in italics and bolded for you. He hadn't started working there yet.

Him, Tom Heffelfinger. 

A guy with a solid-gold CV.  Which I note has been backdated to show employment with Best & Flanagan dating from March 1, 2006, rather than June of 2006.  (Again, note the excerpt above from the June 5, 2006 article:  If he'd really been working there since February, why is this not indicated in the article?  Why is his work there refererred to as something that hadn't happened yet?  You'd think that when Heff's taking the B&F job was announced on June 5, 2006, they would have mentioned it if he'd actually been hired and had started working three months earlier.) 

Tom Heffelfinger.  A respected member of his profession, both locally and nationally. 

One of the most notable members of a noted Minnesota family of Republicans.  (One of his ancestors, Christopher Heffelfinger, was a member of the famously brave First Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, whose heroic sacrifice at Gettysburg helped turn the battle tide in the North's favor, thus saving the day and the Union.) 

A guy whose US Attorney's office was noted for its stability and professionalism, in sharp contrast to its functioning under Paulose

Recently, the Minneapolis office erred in a relatively simple prosecution of a felon who possessed a firearm. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence. The defendant in that case is now the leading suspect in a homicide case.

Washburn says that case suggests the office isn't sticking to the fundamentals.

"It isn't even getting the simple cases correct at some level, and that's troubling," says Washburn. "The office seems to have had a lot of distractions lately, distractions that have led to that kind of mistake. and it's cause for concern."

You'd think that a smart and talented guy who'd been planning his departure well ahead of time, and whose primary concern was upping his salary, would have made sure to have had a job lined up and waiting for him upon leaving the US Attorney's position.  Instead, the evidence indicates that he goes over three months without a paycheck before finally landing a gig.

Tell me, what part of that makes any sense?

The only way the three-month lag from one job to the other can be understood, especially for a guy with such stellar credentials as Heffelfinger's, is if his decision to leave was forced upon him suddenly, without giving him time to prepare for it.

Let me know what you think.

By the way:  Heffelfinger's not the only person involved here whose résumé doesn't seem to match up with the facts as they were reported at the time.  Check out the tangled web that is Rachel Paulose's CV

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