Demo­cratic AGs form de­fen­sive line against Don­ald Trump

At­tor­ney gen­eral races are on the bal­lots in 30 states, in­clud­ing Wis­con­sin.

Wisconsin Gazette - - News Anal­y­sis - By Lisa Neff Staff writer

Eight Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral re­cently filed lit­i­ga­tion seek­ing to block the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from elim­i­nat­ing long-stand­ing pro­tec­tions un­der the Mi­gra­tory Bird Treaty Act.

The law­suit, led by New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Bar­bara Underwood, will be con­sid­ered in the South­ern Dis­trict of New York along­side Na­tional Audubon So­ci­ety v. De­part­ment of In­te­rior, a case filed in May.

For 100 years, the Mi­gra­tory Bird Treaty Act has pre­vented threat­ened wa­ter­fowl, rap­tors and song­birds from go­ing ex­tinct in the United States. Yet, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to re­verse decades of bi­par­ti­san sup­port for im­ple­ment­ing and en­forc­ing the law.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists say they’re buoyed by the suit filed Sept. 5.

“To bor­row a phrase, this is wel­come wind be­neath our wings in the fight to keep this vi­tal bird pro­tec­tion law in­tact,” Sarah Green­berger, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of con­ser­va­tion pol­icy for Audubon, said of the suit.

Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral have held the line in other fights against the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. A Wash­ing­ton Post piece called them the “mus­cle of the re­sis­tance.”

An as­so­ci­a­tion of Demo­cratic AGs is lead­ing a na­tion­wide ef­fort to elect more of them on Nov. 6, in­clud­ing in Wis­con­sin, where Josh Kaul seeks to un­seat Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Brad Schimel.

The Demo­cratic At­tor­neys Gen­eral As­so­ci­a­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Demo­cratic Party of Wis­con­sin has launched a site spot­light­ing “Schimel’s in­com­pe­tence,” ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease.

At back­log­, the DAGA says that, among many other things, Schimel “com­pletely botched” the probe of a youth prison and let the state’s back­log of untested rape kits linger for years with­out tak­ing ac­tion. (See story, page 12.)

“The role of a state at­tor­ney gen­eral is to put the best in­ter­ests of the peo­ple first — and that means test­ing rape kits, tak­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions se­ri­ously and hold­ing other elected of­fi­cials ac­count­able,” said Sean Rankin, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the DAGA. “In­stead, Brad Schimel spent time ap­peas­ing a GOP gover­nor, cozy­ing up to lob­by­ists and pass­ing out cheesy promo gear.”

DAGA’s goal is to fa­mil­iar­ize peo­ple with the vi­tal roles that AGs play in state and gov­ern­ment poli­cies. As the heads of each state’s de­part­ment of jus­tice, the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s job is to func­tion as the “peo­ple’s lawyer” — to rep­re­sent the best in­ter­ests of their states’ cit­i­zens.

On most big is­sues that have reached the courts in re­cent years, AGs have taken sides, filed briefs and made ar­gu­ments.

In Wis­con­sin, un­der Repub­li­cans, at­tor­neys gen­eral have par­tic­i­pated in law­suits op­pos­ing mar­riage equal­ity, unions, women’s re­pro­duc­tive free­dom, gun re­form, liv­ing and equal wages, trans­gen­der ac­cess to nec­es­sary care, pro­tec­tion for im­mi­grants and asy­lum seek­ers, and af­ford­able health care.

Mean­while, across the bor­der in Illi­nois, Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Lisa Madi­gan has coun­tered Repub­li­can ex­ec­u­tives in the state cap­i­tal and at the White House by push­ing pro­gres­sive re­forms.

Madi­gan was among the Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral who filed briefs sup­port­ing unions in the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AF­SCME Coun­cil 31. So was Lori Swan­son, the at­tor­ney gen­eral in Min­nesota.

After the rul­ing against unions, 20 Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral is­sued a state­ment: “We un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate the cru­cial role unions and col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing play in our democ­racy and our econ­omy. As the peo­ples’ lawyers, we are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing work­ing peo­ple can join to­gether for fair and liv­able wages, work­place safety, pen­sions, paid sick days, health care ser­vices and other im­por­tant pro­tec­tions. We will con­tinue this work.”

The Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral also have been at the fore­front of op­po­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sep­a­ra­tion and de­ten­tion of fam­i­lies at the bor­der, travel bans and en­vi­ron­men­tal roll­backs. And, ear­lier this sum­mer, they went to court to pre­vent the na­tion­wide re­lease of down­load­able pro­grams that en­able peo­ple to make guns us­ing three-di­men­sional print­ers.

Most re­cently, Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral faced Repub­li­cans in a Texas court­room over the Af­ford­able Care Act.

At­tor­neys gen­eral in GOP-led states, in­clud­ing Schimel in Wis­con­sin, brought the law­suit, ar­gu­ing the en­tire health care law — but most sig­nif­i­cantly the pro­tec­tion for peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions — was ren­dered un­con­sti­tu­tional after Congress re­pealed the “in­di­vid­ual man­date” that re­quired most Amer­i­cans to buy insurance or risk a tax penalty.

The As­so­ci­ated Press said Texas v. Azar is the most high-pro­file le­gal chal­lenge to “Oba­macare” un­der Trump, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion is not de­fend­ing the law in court.

De­fense, in a sense, was left to the Demo­cratic at­tor­neys gen­eral, and at stake in Wis­con­sin are pro­tec­tions for an es­ti­mated 2.4 mil­lion peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

“This Novem­ber, there is an op­por­tu­nity to oust an at­tor­ney gen­eral (who) con­sis­tently fails to do his job and elect a new at­tor­ney gen­eral who is ready to pro­tect the peo­ple,” said Rankin.

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