Squire Patton Boggs’ State Attorneys General Practice Group is comprised of lawyers who have served at senior levels in state AG offices around the country and whose practices focus, to one degree or another, on representing clients before these increasingly assertive and powerful, yet often overlooked, government agencies, as explained in detail here.
In these updates, we will call attention to the most noteworthy state AG news or developments emerging in the previous week.
California AG Kamala Harris has announced in a press release that her office has filed new criminal charges against executives of Backpage.com including “26 counts of money laundering [and] 13 counts of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping.” Backpage.com is an “online advertising website,” per AG Harris’ press release. AG Harris states in the press release that the charged executives “creat[ed] an online brothel – a hotbed of illicit and exploitative activity” on Backpage.com. The criminal complaint alleges that the executives “created multiple corporate entities to launder money and circumvent the refusal of financial institutions to process Backpage transactions because of overtly sexual material,” according to AG Harris’ press release. Further, “the defendants created other sites to increase the company’s prostitution-related revenue and developed content for those sites by using victim’s photographs or information without their knowledge,” and in seven of the 13 pimping counts “the victims are children,” according to the press release. The press release states that AG Harris has “made fighting human trafficking a priority for the California Department of Justice, and has advocated for increased collaboration among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies during the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes.”
West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey’s plans as AG for 2017 include “stepping up the attack on the state’s opioid crisis” and “dismantling the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan,” among other initiatives, according to a report in West Virginia’s The Journal. Regarding the opioid crisis, AG Morrisey highlighted “increased litigation against manufacturers, wholesalers and pharmacies this year as an additional weapon against prescription drug abuse,” according to the report, and Morrisey noted in a statement that his office had sued two pharmacies in West Virginia because “the number of prescription doses that were being dispensed were off the charts.”
Morrisey also plans in 2017 to “spearhead a 27-state petition to the incoming Trump administration to withdraw President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan that is intended to set a national limit on carbon pollution produced by power plants,” per the report. On Dec. 14, Morrisey and AGs from 23 other states sent a letter to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) suggesting “steps that the incoming Trump Administration and Congress can take to withdraw the . . . Clean Power Plan,” arguing that the plan “is an unlawful attempt to force States to fundamentally alter electricity generation in their States by shifting from existing fossil-fueled power plants to other methods of generation preferred by [the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)].”
On Dec. 28, a separate group of state AGs led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman responded to the Morrisey-led letter, issuing their own letter urging President-Elect Trump to “continue the federal government’s defense of the Clean Power Plan, a well-considered and critical rule that reasonably limits emissions from fossil-fueled power plants, our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution.” The Schneiderman-led letter notes that the rule is expected to eliminate 870 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 160 million cars, and that the rule “satisfies EPA’s legal obligation under the Clean Air Act to limit harmful pollution from power plants that endangers public health and welfare.” They argue that withdrawing the Clean Power Plan as recommended in the Morrisey-led letter would be “ill-conceived and contrary to law,” and would “assuredly lead to more litigation.”
New York AG Schneiderman’s office said in a press statement that President-elect Donald Trump “cannot legally” dissolve The Donald J. Trump charitable foundation until the New York AG’s investigation of the foundation “is complete,” according to an ABC News report. President-elect Trump announced on Dec. 24 that he would close the foundation “to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President.” According to the ABC News report, the New York AG’s office began investigating the Trump foundation in the fall of 2016, and issued a letter to the foundation ordering it to cease fundraising as of September because the foundation had allegedly not received the proper certification to solicit money from the public. When asked for a response to the New York AG’s statement that Trump “cannot legally” dissolve the foundation, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks reiterated that “Mr. Trump has directed his counsel to take the necessary steps to effectuate the dissolution,” according to the ABC News report.