The Rise Of The Agitating AGs

Suzy Khimm calls Tea Party Christianist and climate change denier, Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general, "one of a group of crusading lawyers who've helped transform the state attorney general's officea position once considered a bureaucratic backwaterinto a launching pad for ideological warfare":

[U]ntil the 1990s, the job rarely drew much attention. "It used to be as exciting as being head of the highway department," says Michael DeBow, a law professor at Alabama's Samford University and a former advisor to the state's onetime Republican attorney general Bill Pryor. Then, in 1994, Mississippi's Democratic AG, Mike Moore, took on Big Tobacco, leading an unprecedented multistate lawsuit to recoup health care costs from cigarette manufacturers. The case, which led to a landmark $246 billion settlement, inspired other progressive AGs to launch their own campaigns against corporate malfeasancethen use them to climb the political ladder. New York AG-turned-governor Eliot Spitzer, for one, earned his reputation as "the people's lawyer" by suing big Wall Street firms. ...

Such swashbuckling also began to rouse the opposition. Alarmed by the tobacco suits and the dwindling number of Republican AGs in office, Alabama's Bill Pryor created the Republican Attorneys General Association (PDF) in 2000 to get more conservatives elected. ... Sure enough, the ranks of Republican AGs have grownand the position has become increasingly politicized. Before Cuccinelli, for example, there was Kansas AG Phill Kline, who launched an investigation aimed at shutting down abortion doctor George Tiller.