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In the last 12 months, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has blazed a trail to the courthouse. Or, more accurately, to the press release machine.
Schmitt has sued over the XL Pipeline. He’s in court over federal oil and gas leases. He wants federal environmental regulations reduced by court order. And, of course, he was part of the lawsuit against Pennsylvania, trying to erase the presidential votes of about 7 million people who live there.
Have any of these lawsuits succeeded? Nah. Some, such as the one against China, have brought giggles. Others, such as the one against Pennsylvania, have been anti-constitutional nonsense, and therefore dangerous.
Did these lawsuits reflect the will of Missourians? Hardly. Schmitt wasn’t even elected attorney general until last November. He was first appointed to the job. There’s little evidence Missourians are mad at Google, or oppose insurance coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, which Schmitt has also attacked.
Are the cases designed to help Schmitt’s political career? You bet. And that should concern every Missouri voter, whose taxes are paying for Schmitt’s ambition.
The Missouri Constitution requires an attorney general, but unlike other offices it gives him or her very little to actually do. State statutes say the AG must live in the “seat of government” (a law Sen. Josh Hawley ignored.) The attorney general can offer legal opinions, and help local prosecutors.
The attorney general also represents the state in court, and can file lawsuits to protect “the rights and interests of the state.”
But there is no evidence Schmitt’s frivolous trips to the courthouse are protecting anyone’s rights or interests beyond his own. In fact, the opposite is the case: While the AG wastes time in a desperate search for headlines, important legal problems — inadequate public defense, for example, or alleged maltreatment of teenagers at “reform” schools — go unaddressed.
Until the newspapers report those stories, or course. Then Schmitt goes looking for the cameras again.
The attorney general, who now wants to be a U.S. senator, insists these cases don’t really cost that much taxpayer money. But any amount is wasted in a state where poor people can’t get the health care they approved at the polls, because, apparently, there isn’t enough cash.
And wasted money? Missouri was recently ordered to pay $138,000 in court costs and fees because it failed to adhere to its own Sunshine Law and release birth and death records to a genealogy group.
The costs might have been much lower, but massive turnover in the attorney general’s office over a four-year period led to delays in finishing the case. Maybe the remaining lawyers were busy Googling China.
Like all states, Missouri deserves an attorney general who understands the law and is committed to it. Missourians also need someone who can be bipartisan, not someone who enjoys playing lapdog to the AG in Texas.
Eric Schmitt continues to fail on all counts.