How the energy industry is buying attorney generals. Plus, a style note. | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How the energy industry is buying attorney generals. Plus, a style note.

Posted By on Sun, Dec 7, 2014 at 8:16 AM

OIL DOLLARS AT WORK: It appears the energy industry was the driving financial force for this Republican Attorneys General Association ad used to help elect Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas.
  • OIL DOLLARS AT WORK: It appears the energy industry was the driving financial force for this Republican Attorneys General Association ad used to help elect Leslie Rutledge in Arkansas.

The New York Times has mounted a massive investigation of the power behind Republicans' growing control of the attorney general offices in the United States. It's been powered by oil and gas money and has been rewarded by the state officials' organized fight against federal regulation of the industry.

The Democrat-Gazette this morning carried a small piece of the work. For some eye-opening reading, I recommend the entire project.

The Republican Attorneys General Association that works to elect these officials pulled in some $16 million and spent it commanding elections in a majority of the states, including heavy spending in Arkansas this year to elect Republican Leslie Rutledge. She made a fight against federal regulation one of the keystones of her campaign. (The Times does not dig further into the provenance of some of the other anonymous money groups that also helped Rutledge.)

The Times reported previously how individual attorneys general have shut down investigations, changed policies or agreed to more corporate-friendly settlement terms after intervention by lobbyists and lawyers, many of whom are also campaign benefactors.

But the attorneys general are also working collectively. Democrats for more than a decade have teamed up with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club to use the court system to impose stricter regulation. But never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court.

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

The core group doing this political work — RAGA — is the group that actually used Leslie Rutledge in one of its campaign commercials, wholly obliterating the notion that there should not be coordination between independent groups and candidates. An ethics complaint is pending in Arkansas on this matter. If putting a candidate in a TV ad to trash that candidate's opponent was not a Rutledge campaign contribution, then Arkansas has no campaign ethics law worthy of the name.

A style note before anyone else corrects me: Yes, I'm aware the accepted American style for the plural of attorney general is attorneys general. I prefer the British style of attorney generals because it is less cumbersome, particularly when you want to make a possessive. Attorney generals' campaign contributions is simple. You can't easily form a possessive of the other plural form except by writing around it. More discussion on the pluralization here.

Newspaper style is a quirky thing, subject to dictatorial whim. At the old Arkansas Gazette, J.N. Heiskell didn't approve of those who fancified words like theater as theatre. That produced a style rule in which we would not acknowledge the proper spelling of Metrocentre Mall or the Repertory Theatre. The mall — center or centre — would soon be in the dustbin of history. Then the Gazette would be in the dustbin.

Pussy is a word that creates a problem for the local daily newspaper. Is Myanmar still Burma and Mumbai still Bombay? Has vomit been allowed into its pages yet (I don't mean metaphorically)?

A couple of diehard Hog fans have been raking me over the coals on Twitter for using UA as an abbreviation for the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (a moniker that also enrages them). I'm breaking the UA's rule, they insist. To which I say: I am not an employe of UA. (Old heads will recognize another piece of arcane newspaper style in that last sentence.)

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