Long before President Barack Obama chose Ronald Machen as the next United States attorney for the District of Columbia, Machen helped out Obama with another job: screening potential running mates in 2008.
Machen's role in the vetting process is becoming public for the first time as he undergoes the Senate confirmation process to be U.S. attorney. He mentioned it in response to a Senate questionnaire that asks nominees to list any positions they have held in political campaigns.
“Assisted in vetting of potential Vice Presidential candidates,” Machen answered. He did not elaborate, but vetting work generally consists of standard background checks of personal information, public speeches, and writings. He worked as a volunteer.
The work was likely a natural fit for Machen, who has specialized in internal investigations as a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr since 2004. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., then a partner at Covington & Burling, was among those who led the vetting process that culminated in Obama’s selection of then-Sen. Joe Biden.
Machen’s answers to the Senate questionnaire (PDF) cover 23 pages and catalogue his time at Wilmer and as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington from 1997 to 2001. He describes his hiring as a prosecutor by Holder, who was then U.S. attorney, and his pro bono work on behalf of five people from Hearne, Texas, who were later cleared of drug charges — a case depicted in the film "American Violet."
Asked to list the 10 most significant matters he’s litigated, Machen includes four murder cases in which he represented the government. He also lists his representation of Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing then-Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).