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Friday, March 06, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "State attorneys general are more and more powerful. Is that a problem?"

That is the headline to a long story today in the Washington Post, reported by Paul Nolette. A sample:

Another problem arises from the fact that, unlike the federal government, most states divide executive power between independently elected executive officials. When Alexander Hamilton argued against a plural executive in Federalist No. 70, he noted that their existence “tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility.” By allowing multiple actors to engage in credit claiming and blame avoidance for any given policy, “public opinion is left in suspense about the real author.”

As AGs increasingly use litigation as a method of policymaking, it becomes more difficult for voters to know who to hold responsible for these policy decisions. This is particularly true when AGs and governors simultaneously claim to represent the state’s interests and do so – as with health care and immigration – on opposite sides of the issue.

AGs’ policymaking also raises concerns because much of it occurs well outside of the public view. Recent revelations exposing secretive alliances between AGs and outside interests, including energy firms and plaintiffs’ lawyers, illustrate the dangers of the lack of transparency involved in this form of policymaking. Because so much of the AGs’ contemporary activity occurs behind closed doors and in highly technical legal forums, this form of policymaking may reflect the private interests of the parties involved rather than the broader public interest.

These concerns about democratic accountability are not likely to disappear, particularly since AG activism shows little sign of abating. For better or worse, AGs’ presence on the national stage has become politics as usual.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 6, 2015 10:14 AM
Posted to Indiana Government