City Weekly: What's at stake in the attorney general race?
Rocky Anderson: I do think it’s an extremely important race. It’s made a real difference in the state if you have a good attorney general who is principled, who understands that his or her role is to represent the citizens, constitutional values and the rule of law. But if they’re just out to play partisan politics on the issues and just fall in line with the Legislature, then we’re all dis-served.
We’ve had attorneys general who pursued positions that ended up costing taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run. Look at Mark Shurtleff. He’s spent all this time and money joining with other attorneys general in the fight against Obamacare—and he loses. He joined with all the forces against the EPA regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and they lost. Imagine all the good that could be done by that office if they were attending to real business of the people.
What’s your opinion of this year’s slate of candidates?
Dee Smith [Democrat] has an excellent reputation, and I think has, by far, the best experience to be attorney general. John Swallow [Republican] is more of a politician, it seems, and Andy McCullough [Libertarian] is one of those colorful characters that you’re glad has stuck around in Utah.
Why not vote “straight ticket” and call it good?
Utah voters have demonstrated some independence when it comes to voting for attorney general. Utahns have historically split their vote and voted Democrats into the office. Jan Graham was the only Democratic statewide officeholder for some time, and before that, Paul Van Dam, who was a great attorney general.
We’re not supposed to have a tyranny where one person decides whether or not the law is going to be applied. Neither our governor nor the president of the United States is supposed to say against whom and under what circumstances the law is going to be applied. Nobody is supposed to be above the law. It’s the attorney general’s job to make sure that it’s applied equally. That’s why Lady Justice is blindfolded.
What’s the office have to do with average citizens?
Whoever holds that office does have real impact in all of our lives, everything from consumer protection to a principled approach to the law to prioritizing spending so that the public interest is served—instead of simply playing to a far-right Legislature and Republican voting bloc.
The Legislature’s 1983 cable TV Decency Act—where they were going to prohibit obscenity on cable channels—is a perfect example. A principled attorney general would have said, “We’re not going to spend one cent on this case.” Instead, they hired outside lawyers and spent over a million dollars on it.
Securities fraud and other kinds of financial fraud, especially affinity fraud, has been a huge problem. It makes an enormous difference in people’s lives whether there is going to be aggressive enforcement by the attorney general’s office in those areas. I’d rather see them put their efforts and money into that rather than trying to regulate obscenity on cable TV channels.
Election Guide 2012: