In case you somehow missed it, Virginia Attorney General (AG) Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA) recently filed a lawsuit (Virginia v. Sebelius) that challenges the legality of the health care reform legislation signed into law by President Obama last week.
Cuccinelli is certainly no stranger to controversy. From the moment he assumed office in January, he has made a point of using the Attorney General’s office to push his right-wing social agenda. This includes arguing in a letter to the state’s public colleges and universities that “sexual orientation” could not and should not be included in any anti-discrimination policies.
So his latest push to mount a legal challenge to the recently passed health care reform legislation should come as no surprise? This is simply another attempt to use the AGs office to further his political agenda – and that of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA).
As Virginia is facing a severe budget crisis that will affect so many folks throughout the state, Cuccinelli and McDonnell file a frivolous lawsuit that is politically motivated. Not to mention that this lawsuit comes at a cost to taxpayers, right? You’re darn right!
As Blue Virginia reported on Tuesday, the Democratic Party of Virginia formally filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) formally requesting records of:
hours spent by Cuccinelli and Office of the Attorney General staff preparing Commonwealth of Virginia v. Sebelius; cost to taxpayers of staff work on the suit; a list of conference calls or written correspondence that the Office of the Attorney General had with other states’ attorneys general or national conservative groups in planning the lawsuit; any outside firms contracted to assist on the lawsuit; and, the Attorney General’s full schedule since taking office, including any scheduled television interviews in the Washington, D.C., metro area.
David Mills, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia summed up things best when he said that
the Attorney General is acting like taxpayer funds are just a piggy bank for his personal political agenda. More than 10,000 Virginians [(in a petition launched by the DPVA)] have demanded that Ken Cuccinelli come clean about his use of taxpayer-funded state resources. This week, we’ll find out if Ken Cuccinelli still believes he’s accountable to the taxpayers of Virginia. We’re looking forward to his response.
Drum roll please. In response to the FOIA request, Stephen R. McCullough, senior appellate counsel for AG Ken Cuccinelli has responded by saying that “No such record exists” listing any attorney’s, both inside or outside the AGs office, that worked on producing the legal filing and any hours that they may have billed to the state to prepare it.
McCullough did acknowledge that existence of “correspondence between Cuccinelli’s office and the offices of 13 other state attorneys general who have also filed suit against the federal government, as well as Cuccinelli’s schedule since his took office Jan. 16.”
There were a total of 40 records related to correspondence between the Virginia AGs office and the offices of 13 other state attorneys general; and 170 pages that would provide insight into Cucinelli’s schedule, since he took office in January. McCullough said that the AGs office would not be releasing them, since the office considered them “working papers of the attorney general that are entitled to remain confidential.”
In a release yesterday, Cucinelli actually made the claim that all work “was being done in-house and said costs would be minimal beyond the $350 fee to file the suit in U.S. District Court.”
Color me skeptical, so much for government transparency. Taxpayers deserve to know the cost that is being accrued to fund Cucinelli’s personal political agenda, especially when the health care lawsuit has zero chance of being won. That’s right, ZERO!
Nevada’s Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto provided a good analysis in a letter to Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons on why joining Cuccinelli’s health care lawsuit was essentially pointless and “would not come without a cost.” When looking at Supreme Court precedence, AG Masto writes:
One theory to consider is that Congress lacks authority under the Constitution’s Commerce and Spending Clauses. However, the authority give to Congress is extensive and appears strong enough to support the Act. Health care costs affect our nation’s economy, and the Act is Congress’ answer to alleviating those costs. The United States Supreme Court long ago determined that insurance is commerce and is therefore subject to federal regulation. United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Ass’n, 322 U.S. 533 (1944). Since the 1930s and the “long-rejected Louchner-era precedents,” MeadWestvaco Corp. ex rel. Mead Corp. v. Illinois Dept. of Revenue, 553 U.S. 16, 128 S.Ct. 1948, 1510 (2008) (Thomas, J. concuring), Congress’ broad authority has been acknowledge to, among other things, uphold mandatory contributions to the Social Security Act system, Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619 (1937), and legislate many other federal programs.
So while Cuccinelli and McDonnell defund our public education system (and make several other extreme cuts) they have no problems wasting taxpayer dollars to further their radical political agendas. Hey while national Republicans plan to “sweep problems under the rug,” Virginia Republicans have become masters at creating problems. Where’s the TEA Party when you need them!