Center for Justice & Democracy Releases "State Attorneys General: The People's Champion"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For Release:
March 25, 2008

Contact: Joanne Doroshow

Center for Justice & Democracy Releases
State Attorneys General: The People's Champion

New York, NY - In a new White Paper released today entitled State Attorneys General: The People’s Champion, the national consumer group, Center for Justice & Democracy, finds that state Attorneys General (AGs) are among our country’s most important public advocates, targeting corrupt and harmful business practices on behalf of state consumers.  Yet over the last decade, conservative business groups have launched unfair, misleading assaults against state AGs even to the point of manipulating state elections to defeat popular pro-consumer candidates for state Attorneys General.

In State Attorneys General: The People’s Champion, authors Emily Gottlieb and Amy Widman find that state AGs act on behalf of citizens in many diverse areas, including consumer protection, antitrust and utility regulation, and environmental protection.  The White Paper delves into many past and current AG lawsuits, including cases where AGs, whose offices may be underfunded and understaffed, work with private outside counsel to accomplish these goals.  Outside counsel are hired on contingency at no cost to taxpayers.  According to the study, such agreements have been the target of brazen criticism by conservative business groups whose members have often been found liable by state AGs and forced to repay taxpayers millions of dollars.

Gottlieb and Widman write, “When Attorneys General and private attorneys join together, the power of the state is made stronger by the additional resources, manpower and strategic advice provided by private counsel.  It increases their access to documents so the state can investigate exactly what was happening behind corporate doors.  Also, because the state is involved, it can provide more whistleblower protection to insiders willing to speak the truth about industry misconduct.”  Moreover, “[S]ettlements and fees are paid for by the wrongdoer, not the taxpayer, and the money is used to cover the costs of the litigation as well as disbursed into public programs related to the lawsuit or funneled back into the Attorney General’s office.”

Center for Justice & Democracy Executive Director, Joanne Doroshow, said, “We tend to take for granted the important and sometimes understated work of state Attorneys General, many of whom toil away in unglamorous offices as they fight for the public interest.  But a stealth corporate campaign is underway to keep them from accomplishing their job, both by treating with contempt their pro-consumer cases and by attacking their use of outside counsel, which AG’s seek out to better protect consumers while saving taxpayers money.  If these business groups are successful and prevent AGs from doing their job, the difference could means hundreds of millions of lost reimbursements for states due to corporate wrongdoing, not to mention countless lives.”

A copy of the full White Paper can be found here.

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