Being attorney general in a lot of states — including, apparently, Indiana — must not be that demanding a job.
Because these folks seem to have a lot of time on their hands. All too often, they use that time to drag their states into fights that are none of their business.
In doing so, they spend their taxpayers’ money on often frivolous squabbles or personal quests for political advancement. Sometimes, the motives are even gamier.
The amicus brief filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and signed by 10 other attorneys general — Indiana’s Todd Rokita among them — that protests the search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home is just the latest example.
The issues in dispute regarding the raid on Mar-a-Lago involve whether the former president compromised national security by removing highly classified documents from the White House and thus violating the Presidential Records Act. Neither of these issues has anything to do with the responsibilities or jobs of state attorneys general.
So why, then, do the top lawyers in so many states want to get involved in a squabble that doesn’t concern them?
Well, Paxton’s motivation is easy to divine. He’s facing securities fraud charges and has been trying to defer facing justice on the changes for seven years. He’s used every delaying technique on the books and even has invented a few new ones.
In the waning days of Trump’s presidency, Paxton lent support to the former president’s baseless attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The Texas attorney general initiated litigation backing Trump’s claims of election fraud that even Trump-appointed judges laughed out of court.
Paxton did so, in part, because he was hoping Trump would pardon him before leaving the Oval Office.
That didn’t happen, but the former president is making noises about running again. If Trump wins — and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could — then Paxton might have another shot at that pardon.
If he gets the pardon, Paxton can stop playing the duck-and-hide games he’s relied on regarding the securities-fraud charges.
All he has to do is curry favor with a petulant former president who has a bottomless appetite for flattery and fawning. An amicus brief that argues no points of law but echoes every one of Trump’s self-pitying talking points is a small price to pay for a get-out-of-jail card.
Particularly if the taxpayers are paying the bill.
Rokita’s rationale for signing is slightly less crass.
He is a person who runs for political office almost as a reflex. He has so little impulse control when it comes to running for office that he once launched three different campaigns in a single year. The man just can’t help it, he is a compulsive career campaigner.
Rokita has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to run for governor in two years. It appears he will have to joust in a crowded primary filled with well-funded and well-known Republican opponents.
Because the field likely will be filled with candidates, the winner may need only 35% of the vote to prevail.
Trump’s endorsement would go a long way to getting Rokita to that level. That’s why he spends every waking minute pandering to the Trump base and seeking to render whatever abject service he can to the former president.
Again, an amicus brief is a cheap way for Rokita to get a leg up on his rivals.
Particularly if the taxpayers are picking up the tab.
The only question is whether an attorney general such as Paxton or Rokita or any of the other nine can clear time in their schedules to abase themselves in pursuit of Trump’s good wishes.
Sadly, Rokita, Paxton and crew seem to have lots of time to spare. And lots of their states’ money to burn.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, where this commentary originally appeared. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the views of Franklin College. Send comments to [email protected]