Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not back in the news this week only because he's never out of it. Most recently, a Virginia judge shredded his "civil investigative demand" for all the records of a scientist whose research affirms global warming. The judge pointed out that Cuccinelli's office had not produced any evidence of any fraud or wrongdoing--and that of the five grants the Virginia AG wanted to investigate, four didn't even involve state funds, meaning that the AG has no jurisdiction.
Even the most charitable imagination is prone to turn dark when a government official wants to investigate a private citizen for the offense of controversial writing, without any evidence and without any legal basis. Cuccinelli's picture will likely someday adorn the dictionary entry for "overreach."
A recent profile of the AG in the Washington Post quotes friends as insisting that Cuccinelli is an idealistic type, prone to question even his own conduct. One hopes that is true, but the rest of us could be forgiven for finding the evidence thin.
By their fruits shall you know them, and the Cuccinelli tree has borne some strange fruit lately. In the seven months he has been in office, the new AG has produced the following opinions:
- Virginia's schools and colleges don't have the power to protect gay and lesbian faculty and staff against discrimination;
- Virginia's Board of Health has the power to regulate abortion clinics, even though the General Assembly voted down a bill--supported by Cuccinelli--to grant it to them;
- Virginia law-enforcement personnel already have the power to question and detain persons suspected of immigration violations, the way Arizona police will if federal courts approve that state's anti-immigrant law;
- Loudoun County's government may commemorate "the birth of Jesus Christ" with a display of "innately religious symbols" as long as they are balanced with "such secular items as lights, candy canes, wreaths, poinsettias, fir trees, snowflakes, and red and green ribbons."
Strikingly enough, all these opinions are completely in line with the policy views of a politician named Cuccinelli, who wanted to outlaw abortion even in cases of rape or incest, who sought to permit guns to be carried in bars and restaurants, who doubted the reality of global warming, who wanted to strip American-born children of their citizenship for their parents' immigration sins, and who laid out for a right-wing radio audience a method to challenge Barack Obama's American birth in court (later, to a different audience, he insisted he was speaking "hypothetically").