The nation’s worst state attorneys general abuse the power of their office for political ends, undermining the rule of law. In recent years, many state attorneys general have “increasingly usurped the roles of state legislatures and Congress by using lawsuits to impose interstate and national regulations and extract money from out-of-state defendants who have little voice in a state’s political processes,” as I explain in a recent study, The Nation’s Worst State Attorneys General.
Six state attorneys general comprise the worst-in-the-nation list:
- Jerry Brown, California
- Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut
- Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma
- Patrick Lynch, Rhode Island
- Darrell McGraw, West Virginia
- William Sorrell, Vermont
California’s Jerry Brown tops the list, for repeatedly refusing to defend state laws he disliked. One example was Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage (but not civil unions). This constitutional provision was upheld by the state Supreme Court, which rejected Brown’s argument that it violated the state constitution. I personally opposed Prop. 8, but it’s clear, by definition, that a provision of the state constitution cannot violate the very constitution of which it is a part; and it’s the most basic duty of an attorney general to defend state laws, whether or not he likes them. Another example was Prop. 209, a state constitutional amendment banning racial set-asides and racial preferences. This constitutional provision was upheld by a federal appeals court in 1997, but a dozen years later, Brown refused to defend it, claiming its ban on discrimination violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal scored 2nd worst on the list. In CEI’s previous ratings, released in 2007, Blumenthal occupied the #1 worst spot. Blumenthal hasn’t gotten any better since then, but competition for worst AG has gotten fiercer.
Blumenthal, who has used the power of his office to spread largesse to cronies, continues to earn low grades for his ringleader role in the Tobacco Settlement racket of 1998, which he used to steer millions of dollars to his cronies, as well as for his support of racial quotas and speech restrictions, his attack on private property rights, and various other egregious acts.
The study uses several criteria for determining who made the list of shame: ethical breaches and selective applications of the law; fabricating law, usurping legislative powers; and predatory practices (such as seeking to regulate out-of-state businesses that broke no state law).