Same story, another verse: The Atlantic reports on outside spending by big groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to defeat Democratic candidates for attorney general around the country. Stealth special interest money has already reared its head in this race in Arkansas, in the form of a reported TV ad campaign in the range of $350,000 by a shadowy conservative pro-business lobby, the American Future Fund. It is supporting Republican candidate David Sterling. If this is only primary spending, you could guess that a lot more will be arriving to be spent against Democratic attorney general nominee Nate Steel.
The Sterling ads are nominally about Sterling’s support for extreme pro-gun legislation. But nobody really thinks that’s what the Sterling buy is really about. Or abortion, which the ad also throws in.
The Atlantic gives some insight on the national push:
The Chamber isn’t talking, but it’s not hard to figure out why state attorney-general races are getting so much of its attention, not just in Nevada, but across the country.
First, the joke is that “AG” stands for “almost governor” in the 43 states where they are elected, as many go on to higher elected office. Spending on these races is an investment in the future. Eight current governors and eight current U.S. senators were previously state attorneys general.
“You want to stop people from getting going,” said James Tierney, director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School and the former attorney general of Maine.
Second, attorneys general are charged with bringing consumer-protection lawsuits on behalf of their states that that can mean multibillion-dollar judgments against business interests represented by the Chamber.
And perhaps just as importantly, it’s easier than ever for outside groups to operate thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which knocked aside bans that had existed in 24 states on political spending by corporations and labor unions.
Special interests want to own an attorney general. They want to own the appellate courts. (See item immediately below.) They have the money to do it, particularly in states like Arkansas where $500,000 is a king’s ransom, but chump change to the fat cats driving this movement with help from the Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that believes corporations are people.