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What’s Next?: State AG Investigations

This week “What’s Next?” has the honor of interviewing Denver-based attorney and business consultant Michael J. Stratton. One of Michael’s many areas of expertise is helping clients navigate investigations launched by State Attorneys General.

Michael, why has the GOP been so effective in capturing AG offices around the country?

The Republican Party has been very successful in winning Attorney General and gubernatorial seats in the last decade. There’s a strong majority of Republican AGs and Republican Governors in this country and that’s a direct result of the GOP’s extraordinary work at the grassroots level, at the bench-building level, and by bringing candidates up from being country commissioners, or state representatives, or mayors, up to the Attorney General level. The Attorney General seat in elected office is often viewed as a placeholder for those who are going to run for the Senate, or even the Governor. Republicans realized this in a really empirical fashion and went about making that change. Not so long ago, within the last ten years, there were either equal to, or more, Democratic governors and the same with Democratic attorney generals, and that has switched dramatically in the last few years.

What issues are impacting Attorney Generals?

Now the issues that are really affecting the AGs these days are the issues we’re all reading about in the headlines. Telecommunications, the environment, climate change, global warming. There are a lot of complicated issues out there that the AGs are in the middle of. They’re very much cutting-edge issues in terms of politics and in terms of public policy.

What counsel would you give to companies looking at potential AG investigations this year?

Often times, AG’s, perhaps more than other elected officials, can’t get involved with something that’s already being investigated by their office. So, they have to be very careful about the discussions they have and the pronouncements they make. And generally, it is a very good thing, since AG’s represent the state and often times a Democratic AG will represent a GOP Governor or a Republican AG will represent a Democratic Governor, so they have to be less political than, say, any other state-wide office holder.

Does the current political volatility extend to state Attorney General work?

It extends up and down. Right now, people in this country are extremely frustrated with their politics and their leaders and public policy and just government across the board. The whole basis of the Trump constituency are people that feel disenfranchised—people that are angry about the government’s inaction or in some cases the government’s overreach from their point of view. It affects the Attorney Generals, it affects the Governors, it affects Senators, and it certainly will play itself out in this presidential election where anybody but the above is currently the most popular.

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