Friday, March 27, 2009

Ex-BSA GC Neil MacBride considered for US Attorney slot; will lobbying role derail appointment?

The Washignton Post reports that former Business Software Alliance Vice President of Anti-Piracy and General Counsel Neil MacBride -- who only recently was appointed Associate Deputy Attorney General -- is now in the running to be the new US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. And the Post seems downright fixated on the fact that MacBride once dared lobby for the BSA and, previously, for Verner, Liipfert (since swallowed by the firm now known as DLA Piper):
President Obama campaigned on a pledge to change Washington, vowing to upend the K Street lobbying culture, and at one point, he said lobbyists wouldn't work in his White House. Immediately after taking office, he imposed lobbying limits that have been hailed as historically strict. Although officials said MacBride's appointment would not violate those rules, some prosecutors and governmental watchdogs wonder whether it would violate their spirit.

"The issue is whether Obama is being consistent," said Melanie Sloan, a former prosecutor who heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "They wanted the American people to think they weren't going to hire any lobbyists, and that was never realistic."

The Post's focus on MacBride's past lobbying as a possible impediment to helming the US Attorney's Office strikes me as way overblown. As the article itself points out, he never lobbied the Justice Department while at BSA -- only the Senate. And crimes in MacBride's field -- software piracy -- represent a minuscule portion of federal prosecutions. I can't imagine that the need for his occasional recusal on such cases would disrupt the operations of the office in the slightest.

Even Sloan, one of the ethics mavens quoted by the Post -- who once worked with MacBride -- calls him "a really smart, good prosecutor." If that's the case, and he's the best man for the job, it would be a shame to let today's obsession with lobbyists derail his ability to serve.

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