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Monday, November 24, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - States' Attorneys General continue to be the focus of national stories

Following up on posts from Oct. 27th ("Florida Attorney General active in faraway court fights") and Oct. 29th ("Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General"), the Lexington Herald-Leader ran a story Nov. 15th on an attorney general candidate closer to home: "Andrew Beshear raises $1.5 million for AG race, but critics question his donor list." A few quotes from John Cheve's long story:

Democrat Andrew Beshear, the 36-year-old son of Gov. Steve Beshear, has raised $1.48 million as the only declared candidate in the November 2015 election for Kentucky attorney general.

It's an impressive sum — incumbent Attorney General Jack Conway spent less than $1.9 million combined on his two successful campaigns — but the source of much of that money concerns ethics watchdogs and legal observers, who question how vigorously Andrew Beshear could protect the public interest as Kentucky's top law-enforcement official.

At the 87 fundraising events Andrew Beshear reported as of Sept. 30, he raked in contributions from many with a financial stake in his father's Democratic administration — executive branch political appointees, Frankfort lobbyists, state contractors and state-regulated industries, including coal, health care and banking.

On Nov. 20th the NY Times featured this editorial, headed "Attorneys General for Sale." Some quotes:
Every state has laws regulating lobbying, but almost all of those laws apply to lobbying members of state legislatures, not attorneys general. For the most part, states never anticipated that their chief legal officers would be the subject of aggressive pressure from big businesses and special interests.

But that’s all changed now. Politics at all levels has become dominated by those with enough money to spend lavishly on electing public officials and then pushing them for favors. In a recent investigative report, Eric Lipton of The Times revealed that an entire industry has sprung up to lobby state attorneys general on behalf of companies that are under scrutiny, or that need special legal benefits from a state.

The companies give hundreds of thousands of dollars (and often much more) to the campaigns or political funds set up to elect the attorneys general. Once in office, many of these officials are treated to expensive vacations at resort hotels, where they mingle with the lobbyists who are trying to cut deals for their clients.

The position of attorney general is often both extremely powerful and relatively low-profile, making it a perfect target for lobbying. These officials regulate corporations, enforce consumer protections and environmental laws, and bring civil suits against lawbreakers, often collectively. Many of them handle prosecutions and criminal appeals, and represent state agencies in court. * * *

For state lawmakers, fixing this mess will have to go beyond investigating individual cases. State lobbying laws will have to be expanded to cover attorneys general; already, many states barely police gifts to legislators. (Ten states allow officeholders to take gifts of unlimited value.) States also need to put lower limits on how much a donor can give to an attorney general’s campaign, or even consider making the job an appointed position, as it is in seven states. Big-money politics should not mix with state legal power.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 24, 2014 08:53 AM
Posted to Indiana Government