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California U.S. Attorneys scandal (Napoleon's World)

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The U.S. Attorneys for California scandal was a political scandal in the 1980's over the appointment of three US Attorneys by the Department of Justice to the Southern, Central and Eastern Federal Court Districts of California. The three attorneys - Linda Schaffer, John Brandt and Harold J. Plank - were all former aides to then-Vice President Robert Redford, with Schaffer and Brandt having served under him when he was the Assistant Attorney General of California (1967-1971), Lieutenant Governor of California (1971-72) and Governor of California (1972-1979), and Plank having served Redford as Governor and as the Chief Counsel to his Presidential campaign. Accusations of favoritism and graft emerged, and critics noted that many of the cases the three attorneys in question pursued aligned with the former governor's interests in California and the interests of the state National Party and its allies.

After the scandal broke, it was revealed that a fourth US Attorney, George Marinatto - appointed to serve the Federal District of Southern Florida - had lobbied in Washington for three companies that had donated campaign funds to both Redford's campaign and later President Elizabeth Shannon. Four Senate hearings were staged in 1983 and 1984 to address the issue, and eventually all four attorneys resigned and no charges were filed against Redford. The issue boiled up again during the 1986-87 North-South scandal, when Schaffer's replacement as US Attorney, Douglas Ramirez, was accused of targeting potentially uninvolved Democratic politicians in Los Angeles at the behest of Redford and California Nationalists to give them a leg-up in the 1986 gubernatorial race and the 1988 Presidential race, in which Redford was anticipated to have a hard fight to keep his home state. By 1988, however, Redford's image had been rehabilitated and he handily won California in the general election.

The Attorneys

The three attorneys in question were Linda Schaffer, John Brandt and Harold J. Plank, all of whom were longtime associates of Vice President Robert Redford, who served as Governor of California from 1972 until 1979 and who had been both Lieutenant Governor and Assistant Attorney General before then. Schaffer (born Linda Ward in 1934) was a UCLA Law School graduate in the late 1950's, and was known to be a socially liberal but constitutionally conservative lawyer who worked her way through the California state court systems as a clerk and District Attorney's assistant. She got a position in the Attorney General's office as only the second woman to serve as an official state prosecutor in 1968, a year after Redford was appointed Assistant to the Attorney General. Schaffer and Redford became close associates and he brought her over to the Governor's office as an advisor in 1972 after he suddenly became Governor. She remained the Assistant Counsel to the Governor until Redford's term expired in 1979 and she joined the firm Goodson and Pennington in Los Angeles for two years afterwards.

Brandt (1925-2007) was a Harvard Law graduate with a long history in the California Attorney General's office, who became Redford's Senior Counsel to the Governor in 1972 after having worked alongside him for many years, and was elected State's Attorney in 1974 and 1978 to a non-partisan office. He was suspected of having gubernatorial ambitions in 1986 and beyond. As State's Attorney, he was accused on more than one occasion of kowtowing to Redford's agenda in which cases he did and did not pursue.

Plank (born 1926) was Redford's liaison with the Attorney General's office and ran unsuccessfully for that office in 1974. He was appointed to be Senior Counsel to the Governor in 1975, however, after Brandt left to take over the State's Attorney's office, and he remained in that position for four years until Redford left the Governorship in 1979.

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