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State Attorney Generals Abuse Their Power



State attorneys general often abuse their power. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's sweetheart deals with campaign donors, which Ted describes, are just one example.

Last year, the Competitive Enterprise Institute issued a study chronicling abuses by state attorneys general called "The Nation's Top Ten Worst State Attorneys General." Ranked as the three worst AGs were Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, California's Bill Lockyer, and New York's Eliot Spitzer.

Hood narrowly escaped being included in that study's top-ten list (CEI viewed about a dozen other AGs as being even worse than Hood), but perhaps he should have been. Hood's hiring of campaign donors to bring lawsuits in the name of the state in exchange for lucrative contingency fees is a disturbingly common practice among AGs.

The Wall Street Journal suggests that the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) more or less laundered money for Hood, giving Hood an amount of money strikingly similar to the amount it received from law firms that earlier received lucrative work from Hood's office. "In 2007, law firms that have benefited from Mr. Hood gave the organization $572,000, and in turn the group wrote campaign checks in 2007 to Mr. Hood for $550,000."

Last year, the president issued an executive order banning federal agencies from hiring lawyers on a contingency fee. The abuses by Hood and other AGs, like Rhode Island attorney general Patrick Lynch, demonstrate why that executive order made sense -- and why state legislatures should follow suit in banning such contingency fees.

Such contingency fees not only foster corruption, they also violate state constitutional separation of powers guarantees, result in perverse incentives and overreaching in litigation, and cause conflicts of interest.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.