LaPORTE – While recent news reports of Attorney General Curtis Hill’s after-hours alleged misconduct are deeply troubling and cause for justifiable outrage, of equal concern to Hoosiers ought to be the question – who is our attorney general really working for? Is it big money corporate sponsors or average working Hoosiers?
 
CBS News recently reported on a lavish retreat hosted on Kiawah Island, South Carolina in April that a dozen Republican attorneys general, including Hill, who have the final say in their states on what enforcement actions to bring or not, attended on the tab of various corporate interests who paid $125,000 each just to get to rub elbows, buy drinks and food and schmooze with them.
 
Well-heeled corporate donors like those from Koch Industries, big tobacco, payday lenders, oil and gas interests and the NRA fork out big bucks to ensure that AG’s like ours stay compliant and supportive of their interests. Between yoga on the beach, the dolphin tour and the Kiawah creatures walking tour, there’s still plenty of time to hobnob and strategize about what can be done to satisfy the insatiable appetite of certain corporate interests who wish to further roll back environmental and health/safety regulations along with basic employment protections for average working stiffs.
 
A look at some of the amicus or friend-of-the-court filings submitted by our attorney general over the year-and a half he’s been in office tend to show why Curtis Hill is held in such high esteem by these big money corporate interests and why Hoosiers need to question what any of these cases have to do with Indiana’s best interests and whether they in any way reflect the will of Indiana voters:
 
Eleven Republican state attorneys general, including Hill, filed a federal court brief in support of California’s ag industry that was infuriated by that state’s Proposition 65 regulation of the herbicide, glyphosate. Why they’d stick their beaks into California’s environmental regulation becomes clearer when one sees the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was eager to protect the manufacturer of glyphosate and signaled to their reliable AG’s to come to the rescue of agribusiness interests there.
 
That same group of Republican attorneys general also filed a brief in federal court in California seeking to oppose the City of Oakland’s case against BP Oil over emissions standards when Oakland sought to use state common law nuisance claims to attempt to impose regulations tougher than those of the Clean Air Act. Again, why did our AG feel it necessary to go across the country to intervene in this dispute when there are problems right here at home that need his attention?
 
On political gerrymandering: Despite polls showing that a clear majority of Hoosiers want to see an end to partisan gerrymanders and with respected elder statesmen like former Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar going on record with an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court against partisan gerrymandering, Curtis Hill still felt it necessary to join with 14 other Republican attorneys general to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court saying there is “nothing invidious or irrational” about partisan gerrymandering. Interesting that rather than consult Hoosiers before he filed his brief, Hill ignored the advice of Lugar and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who filed a succinct and chilling assessment in their brief: “Partisan gerrymandering has become a tool for powerful interests to distort the democratic process.”

On employment law issues, Hill stood with big corporate interests in trying to have Indiana’s Teachers’ Tenure Act of 1927 ruled obsolete when he actually filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an appeal the justices rejected. Fortunately, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had found that the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects Indiana’s tenure law from attack and yet Hill still felt the need to take an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, a petition denied by the high court. No worries. Hill was at least able to preen for his corporate overseers by attempting this unwarranted and baseless attack on teachers’ interests.
 
The most odious and offensive of all the amicus briefs or suits filed by Attorney General Hill has to be the suit he filed in a Texas federal court with Republican attorneys general of 19 other states seeking to have key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing illness, declared unconstitutional. Betting money is that he didn’t clear that suit past our governor or any other Hoosier state elected officials who well understand that there are nearly 1.5 million Hoosiers who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, cancer or arthritis who depend on this most popular part of the ACA to guarantee them coverage in the private insurance marketplace.  

When the Trump Justice Department refused to defend the pre-existing conditions coverage of ACA in that same Texas lawsuit, Curtis Hill praised the decision ignoring the advice of fellow Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), who made clear that “the Justice Department argument in the Texas case is as farfetched as any I’ve heard.” Insurance companies and others who have chafed at providing coverage for those with pre-existing illnesses have found a good friend who will march lockstep with them in Curtis Hill.

Let’s be honest: Curtis Hill was an obscure county prosecutor who was little known around our state, but had a nice sounding name on the 2016 ballot in a low-visibility state race when he recorded his first win for statewide office. Hoosiers have to now question just who is their attorney general working for – their interests? Or, the assorted corporate sponsors who paid big money to rub elbows and do yoga on the beach and check out the porpoises with him at that luxury retreat back in April? I think the answer has become all too readily apparent. 
 
Shaw Friedman is a LaPorte attorney who has represented various local governmental entities during his 34 years of law practice in Northwest Indiana. He’s former Legal Counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a regular HPI contributor who can be contacted at friedman@netnitco.net