Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has had a bad month.
On September 7, 2011, the Attorney General’s suit against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was dismissed by the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals, the court finding that the Commonwealth did not have “standing” to challenge the federal health care law. And two days later, Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Cheryl V. Higgins granted the University of Virginia a stay in the suit that the Attorney General brought to gain access to thousands of university employee emails that involve former UVA climate scientist Michael Mann and climate change. These decisions do not yet mean defeat for the AG, but represent a setback for him and his conservative allies.
In his haste to be the first to file against the health reform plan, and therefore establish his national conservative bona fides, Cuccinelli made it easier for the 4th Circuit to find that the Commonwealth had no standing to sue. He could just as easily have joined other attorneys general but chose not to, a decision which has cost Virginia taxpayers and which he may ultimately come to regret. Now, he must decide whether or not to appeal. Most observers are betting that he will, thereby committing additional Commonwealth resources to a case that is both extremely speculative and unlikely to lead to a full repeal of the law.
I have written previously on the Attorney General’s concerted efforts to chill academic freedom and question the broad consensus in the scientific community about the nature and extent of climate change. In addition, the most recent findings of the National Science Foundation exonerating Dr. Mann against the very charges which Cuccinelli asserts again demonstrates that this suit is more about ideology than about protecting the Virginia taxpayer.
While our Attorney General wastes taxpayer dollars building a conservative resume, other Attorneys General are working successfully to protect consumers. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madegar joined with her counterparts in 23 other states and the District of Columbia in negotiating a $92 million multistate settlement with JP Morgan Chase. JP Morgan Chase & Co. was investigated for allegedly rigging bids and engaging in anticompetitive practices that financially damaged municipalities, schools, hospitals and nonprofits; Virginia was not a participant in this case.
Attorneys General from 38 states completed a $40.75 million settlement with GlaxoSmith Kline LLC involving “alleged substandard drug manufacturing processes. Again, Virginia was not a participant in the case.
During our budget debates, the Governor has urged us to fund only the “core services of government”, and has used this argument to justify his efforts privatize ABC and defund Planned Parenthood and Public Broadcasting.
Perhaps it is time to subject the Attorney General’s actions to the same standard by asking if the funding of Cuccinelli’s legal crusades is a wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars and a “core service of government.”