WASHINGTON – A criminal case against four conservative activists accused of trying to tamper with the New Orleans office phones of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has highlighted a patronage squabble between the White House and a Republican senator.
Bringing the charges against the four men was Jim Letten, the U.S. attorney in New Orleans and a holdover Bush administration appointee. One of four arrested Monday in the alleged plot was Robert Flanagan, the son of Bill Flanagan, a career prosecutor who is the acting U.S. attorney in Shreveport, La.
A week ago, President Obama nominated Stephanie Finley for the U.S. attorney's post in Shreveport.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is blocking Senate action on Finley's nomination and Obama's other nominees for federal justice system posts in Louisiana until he hears from the White House whether Obama will let Letten keep his job, Vitter's office said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the attorney for Flanagan, an independent filmmaker who has been charged with entering Landrieu’s office under false pretense and "interfering" with the phone system, said Wednesday that his client did not bug any telephones or engage in other illegal activity, USA Today reports.
"There was no wire-tapping, bugging or interfering with the phone system," Michael Madigan, attorney for James O'Keefe, told the newspaper.
O'Keefe gained prominence last year by posing as a pimp and recording videos that showed alleged improprieties by employees of ACORN, a community-activist group. The videos led to efforts in Congress to cut off federal funding of ACORN.
On Wednesday, some of O'Keefe's backers distanced themselves from him.
"Citizens have an important role in helping to expose waste and/or fraud ... but it must be done in a lawful manner," said Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), who had introduced a resolution to honor O'Keefe for exposing ACORN.