What makes for a bad attorney general? Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute lists the following, um, qualities:
1. Ethical Breaches and Selective Applications of the Law. Using campaign contributors to bring lawsuits. Using the attorney general’s office to promote personal gain or enrich cronies or relatives. Favoritism towards campaign donors and other uneven or unpredictable application of the law (including refusal to defend state laws or state agencies being sued when plausible defenses exist).
2. Fabricating Law. Advocating that courts, in effect, rewrite statutes or stretch constitutional norms in order to make new law for example, seeking judicial imposition of new taxes or regulations, or restrictions on private citizens’ freedom to contract.
3. Usurping Legislative Powers. Bringing lawsuits that usurp regulatory powers granted to the federal government or other state entities, or that are untethered to any specific statutory or constitutional grant of authority.
4. Predatory Practices. Seeking to regulate conduct occurring wholly in other states for example, preying on out-of-state businesses that have not violated state law and have no remedy at the polls.
Only three of the nation’s 50 AGs fail on all four counts, and lucky us, we have one: Drew Edmondson, says Bader, is the third-worst attorney general in the land.
Edmondson appears to have had no problem with accepting money from out-of-state lawyers, wealthy special interests, and even felons. He has violated state ethics rules and campaign laws. And he has steered lucrative government contracts to lawyers who give him donations (such as generous contingency fees for lawyers that give them up to $250 million simply for bringing copycat lawsuits that mimic pending lawsuits brought by other trial lawyers, and give the lawyers up to 50 percent of what the state recovers).
Now imagine the two worse than that. (If you’re keeping score: Jerry Brown of California, followed by Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Blumenthal was actually #1 in 2007, the last time CEI put out such a list.)