Democratic AGs form defensive line against Donald Trump
Attorney general races are on the ballots in 30 states, including Wisconsin.
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 backlogbrad.com, 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.