District U.S. Attorney’s Budget is No Longer Secret

It took nearly three years, but we can now officially tally the once-secret budget of the District’s U.S. Attorney’s Office: $72.9 million.

We first asked for this information in 2009, but our Freedom of Information Act Request was denied. In November, the District’s top prosecutor, Ronald C. Machen Jr., issued a press release that hinted at the total. When pressed, Machen refused to release the budget figure, saying “we don’t routinely give out our budget information publicly.”

His decision seemed to contradict promises by President Obama, whose administration pledged “an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Earlier this year, the Post filed another FOIA request. The results just arrived on a two-page spread sheet in the mail, with the Justice Department providing a district-by-district breakdown of budget totals for the nation’s 93 U.S. Attorney offices from fiscal 2007 through 2011.

By far, the District had the largest budget — exceeding that of the nearest competitor, the Southern District of New York, by about $20 million.

One reason Machen’s office has such a large budget is because it has the unusual job of prosecuting the District’s local offenses, too. It has about 300 attorneys handling matters in federal court and D.C. Superior Court.

In a statement, the office’s spokesman, Bill Miller, said “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia followed policy in providing this information through a FOIA request handled by the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is unique in that it handles local as well as federal cases, and a majority of its budget is dedicated to serving that vital local mission.”

Maryland’s U.S. Attorney has a budget of $14.6 million. The Eastern District of Virginia has a budget of $22.7 million. For those of you interested in the wonky world of U.S. Attorney budgets, feel free to check out the entire list.

This item has been updated.

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