Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Corruption Of State Attorney Generals Has Become A Big Business

Two decades ago 40 state attorney generals banded together to sue the tobacco industry.  They won a $206 billion settlement from the tobacco industry.  That got the attention of corporate executives.  Corporations are now lobbying state attorney generals to protect themselves from harmful litigation.
This article describes the ways in which the lobby industry has been organized and how attorney generals have benefited from the lobbyists.  Legislators are no longer the sole beneficiaries of the goodies provided by corporate lobbyists.  State attorney generals have gotten into the game and some familiar patterns have developed.

One of the familiar patterns is the revolving door.  Attorney generals frequently join a lobbying firm after leaving office.  That gives them an incentive to be "cooperative" while they are in office because that makes them more attractive to law firms that represent corporate interests.

The AG's have also organized themselves to attract and distribute corporate campaign contributions.  Republicans formed the Republican Attorney General's Association (RAGA) and the democrats followed with the DAGA.  Donations from corporations, either directly or indirectly, go to these organizations.  In turn, each of them provide funding for AG election campaigns.

The AG's also join an organization of former AG's when they leave office.  The alumni organization is often targeted by lobbyists and many work for law firms that represent corporate interests.

As one might imagine some of the law firms that represent corporate interests become better at it than others and their work is described in this article.

A strange kind of game tends to develop over time.  AG's have in incentive to take actions which raise the threat to some corporations.  That makes corporations more anxious to raise the stakes in the lobbying game that gets played.  Corporations often try to prevent AG's from organizing together on law suits like they did in the tobacco case;  they also try to block legal action at the state level.  Some AG's who have been highly favored by a particular lobbyist have tried to prevent their peers from joining together on a legal action.

In addition to being hosted at fancy venues by lobbyists, many AG's have would like to further their careers outside of the lobby industry.  Some want to run for higher state or national office. Several of the AG's investigated in this report are being championed for higher office by lobbyists and the corporations with whom they have developed a "personal relationship".

This investigative report by the NYT is a good example of what journalism is capable of doing in a democratic society.  It would not be possible in many nations.  It includes details from emails that would be an embarrassment to those involved if this information was widely distributed.  Unfortunately, only readers of the NYT will be informed by the information provided in this article.  It will not be picked up by the local press in most affected states.

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