Here Come the Republican AGs

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The Republican sweep in 2010 went all the way down the ballot, and it’s gradually becoming apparent that some of the GOP’s lower-profile victories—particularly at the state level—could also have major consequences. In five states, for instance, Republicans managed to flip the seats for state attorneys general, giving them control of 21 AG slots in the 43 states that elect their state AGs. (The office is appointed in the other states.) Though Democrats still hold a one-seat majority in the states that elect AGs, the midterm elections have given the GOP more AG slots than the party has held for decades. And Republican AGs have already indicated that they’re eager to use their office to become ideological crusaders—particularly as a means of defying Obama and Washington’s Democratic leadership.

As I write in my latest magazine story, Virginia attorney general and tea party hero Ken Cuccinelli has demonstrated exactly how far Republican AGs are willing to go to push their agenda. Cuccinelli was the first AG to file suit against the federal health care law—a legal challenge that now poses the greatest immediate threat to health reform, more so than anything that Congress is currently capable of doing. Cuccinelli has since set  his sights on every other major pillar of the Democratic platform—most recently decreeing that school officials have the authority to seize and search students’ cell phones and laptops if they suspect unseemly behavior. He’s also continued to use his office as a bully pulpit to slam “Obamacare,” claiming last month the federal health law could force Americans to buy gym membership.

Cuccinelli represents a new breed of state AGs who have cut a profile for themselves as high-profile, strident swashbucklers. As I explain, it’s a role that their Democratic counterparts had originally pioneered by targeting tobacco companies and other big corporations. Intentionally or not, the crusades of Democratic AGs like Eliot Spitzer ended up politicizing the office, turning it into even more of a political stepping stone and putting Republicans on the defensive. Now that Republican AGs have gained more of the upper hand, it’s not surprising that they’re eager to wage their own war.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest