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Jack Smith

Chief, DOJ Public Integrity Section

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Why He Matters

The Justice Department's Public Integrity Section (PIN), a team of around 30 prosecutors charged with investigating corruption in the judiciary, state legislatures and Congress, came under fire in late 2008 for the botched prosecution of the late former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) which Attorney General Eric Holder decided to abort in April 2009 amid accusations of prosecutor misconduct.

The PIN has been under intense scrutiny since then, and in 2009 the number of public-corruption cases brought to trial dipped significantly. The head of the unit, William Welch II, departed in October 2009, leaving longtime Justice official Raymond Hulser in charge while the department searched for a replacement.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: prosecutor, International Criminal Court (2008-2010); U.S. attorney, Brooklyn; assistant district attorney, Manhattan
  • Hometown: upstate New York
  • Alma Mater: Harvard Law School, J.D.
 

Path to Power

A native of upstate New York, Smith put himself through Harvard Law School and as a young man interned at the Anti-Defamation League, a civil- rights group dedicated to fighting anti-semitism.

A member of the New York bar since 1995, Smith started his career as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, where he quickly became an advocate for victims of domestic violence. He often biked to crime scenes, picked up conversational Spanish, and got to know the city through the eyes of a prosecutor.

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The Issues

The Justice Department's Public Integrity Section (PIN), once considered an elite squad of federal prosecutors, oversees federal corruption cases nationwide, though most of these cases are handled by the U.S. attorney's offices. The unit includes attorneys who are experts in extortion, bribery, election crimes and criminal conflicts of interest.

Dropped Investigations

Between May 2010, when Smith took over at PIN, and August, corruption investigations of four elected officials were concluded with no charges filed. The most prominent lawmaker let off the hook was former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), one of the biggest players connected to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

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The Network

Smith's principal deputy at the DOJ's PIN is Raymond Hulser, who served as acting chief in the months following former PIN Chief William Welch's departure. Smith boss, Lanny Breuer, described Smith, a newcomer to Washington, as a good complement to Hulser who has more than a dozen years of experience in the unit.

Criminal defense attorney Ephraim Savitt, who has been on the opposite side of Smith in court, described him as "fair but aggressive." "In terms of somebody who's going to head the Public Integrity Section, the Justice Department couldn't find someone with greater integrity than Jack," he said.

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