IOWA "U.S. Attorney Candidate Rises Above Father's Past"

Doesn’t the potential United States Attorney appointment of Nick Klinefeldt create many situations that raise not only ethical challenges and issues but the appearance of ethical issues not to mention a great deal of unnecessary work to overcome those challenges?  Is this the best candidate Iowa and Senator Harkin really have for this important job? His own firm won’t make him a partner but he gets nominated to lead a powerful group of high octane veteran prosecutors?

A young inexperienced attorney –whose resume appears to be mighty puny to begin with–is going to take over the same USA office that prosecuted his own father for a drug crime?

His father was brought down by a multi-agency Iowa drug task force the USA Office he will not lead works with on a daily basis?

His father was represented by the Federal Public Defender who routinely is assigned cases prosecuted by that same USA office?  

His father was sentenced by a US Federal Judge in the same  Federal District that the USA office works before?

Won’t these and many other situations cause his decisions and relationships to be questioned at every turn? Won’t he have to rescue himself in many important situations?

This young man appears to have overcome some great parental challenges to become an attorney. Good for him.  But why does he have to be a USA at this point?  Why put him in this untenable situation? Why put everyone else who works in important job in the USA office and law enforcement who bring in the bad guys  not to mention  the public in this  “awkward”  situation?  The guy is only 35 and appears to have not much experience beyond being a friend of the Senator.  If he is that great of talent –why not at least put him in a different District maybe Northern Iowa?

Why did this story get reported in a National on-Line Blog and not by   any Iowa media? Isn’t there a controversy about Harkin’s other US Attorney nominee also-I thought I saw a Harkin OP-ED about that?

What is Senator Harkin doing? With so many national issues for him to deal with is his head really in the game on these important kinds of Iowa appointments?

Looking over the Main Justice Blog -it appears most Senators nominated at least three names to the White House for these appointments. Why did Harkin only submit one name? What did Grassley do in 2001?


Found: Mon Sep 14 21:19:23 2009 PDT



A U.S. Attorney Candidate Rises Above Father’s Past – Main Justice A U.S. Attorney Candidate Rises Above Father’s Past – Main Justice

Main Justice

A U.S. Attorney Candidate Rises Above Father’s Past

The Midwest has been hit hard by meth. Law enforcement devotes significant resources to combatting the illegal drug. All of which puts Des Moines lawyer Nick Klinefeldt, who is Sen. Tom Harkin’s choice for Iowa Southern District U.S. Attorney, in an unusual position.

Klinefeldt’s father, Michael Arthur Klinefeldt, is serving a 10-year sentence on a methamphetamine conviction, according to court records. Nick Klinefeldt declined to comment. A spokesman for Harkin said the candidate’s father’s conviction isn’t an issue. “It is Nick, not his father, who is up for consideration,” Bergen Kenny wrote in an e-mail. “Senator Harkin believes that Nick will fully and fairly enforce the law and should be considered for U.S. Attorney based on his credentials.”

The elder Klinefeldt is slated to be released from federal prison in 2012.

Klinefeldt is a former aide to Harkin. He also served as general counsel for the Iowa Democratic party until earlier this year and as a lawyer for the Obama for President campaign in Iowa, according to the Iowa Independent, which reported in March that Harkin had recommended him for the U.S. Attorney post.

Nick Klinefeldt (Ahlers & Cooney)

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa regularly oversees prosecutions of methamphetamine manufacturers and users. The office announced 14 successful meth-related prosecutions this year, including four convictions last month.

The elder Klinefeldt was nabbed in a 2002 incident, according to court documents. On an October evening seven years ago, Michael Arthur Klinefeldt and another man, identified as William Jon DeMoss Jr., were riding in a minivan that contained a meth lab. (Read the criminal complaint here and other court documents here.) Acting on a tip, a deputy in the Polk County Sherriff’s Office stopped the van.

The police officer reported the van smelled of ether and ammonia — substances used to manufacture meth. A analysis showed the lab produced more than 5 grams of meth and had the materials necessary to make more of the drug.

A camouflage fanny pack with a loaded .22 caliber revolver in it was also discovered in the vehicle. Klinefeldt told the police officer that DeMoss wore the fanny pack when they were making the meth in a Des Moines forest, records show.

A federal judge sentenced Klinefeldt to prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. This was his second meth-related conviction. Klinefeldt was also convicted in 1993 for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

Tom Harkin (Gov)

Harkin recommended Nick Klinefeldt to replace the current U.S. Attorney, Matthew G. Whitaker, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004.

Klinefeldt, 35, works in the general litigation department of Des Moines law firm Ahlers & Cooney. He is not a partner at his firm. He previously practiced complex civil and criminal litigation in Boston.

The U.S. Attorney candidate clerked for U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa Judge Robert W. Pratt from 2000 to 2002 and Massachusetts Appeals Court Chief Justice Christopher J. Armstrong and Justice Benjamin Kaplan from 2002 to 2003.

He also has strong ties to Harkin, having worked for the senator’s 1996 reelection campaign and on his Senate staff before attending law school at the University of Iowa, according to the Radio Iowa blog. In 2008, he donated $500 to Harkin’s campaign and $500 to the Obama presidential campaign, records show. He also gave $1000 to the Iowa Democratic Party between 2007 and 2008.

About the Author(s)


  • unless you have explicit permission

    to copy and paste a whole post from another blog here, please edit the last section of your diary to include just a few paragraphs from the Main Justice site and a link to the original post.

    What you have posted appears to go beyond fair use, unless you have permission to cross-post.

  • regarding the substance of your diary

    This is the first I’ve heard about the situation. It does seem that he would need to recuse himself in certain situations.

    My impression was that senators typically put forward one name, not several, for the US attorney slots. I thought that’s what Grassley did previously, but I’m not sure.

    For what it’s worth, Grassley’s last recommended US attorney was very young and didn’t have a tremendous amount of experience. These are political appointments.

    Do you have any specific people in mind whom Harkin should have nominated for this position?

  • finally

    On what do you base your claim that Klinefeldt’s firm “won’t make him a partner”? Do you have knowledge that he was considered for partner and rejected? Some firms don’t make that decision until a person has worked there for a number of years.  

  • Umm

    What is the conflict here?  You think he won’t prosecute meth crimes?  Jesus.

    It doesn’t seem like you have anything specific against him other than that he is young.  And while I can agree that we haven’t been served all that well by youthful USAs in the recent past (Whitaker was terrible!) I don’t think you can hold Grassley’s mistakes against Harkin.  Klinefeldt is someone who is serious about the law even when it isn’t in favor of the Democrats.  That’s more than can be said for most of the outgoing attorneys.