October 11, 2005

Yes, Virginians, there is an Attorney General

posted by Will Wilson @ 8:42 pm

The DC brain-blender rarely leaves the capital’s citizens pitying their cross-Potomac counterparts. Still, to people for whom federally-funded decorative bamboo seems a satisfactory public expenditure, the Virginia AG election stands out as muddled governance.

A recent debate between contenders Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell exemplifies the improvident incentivization for Attorneys General nationwide. Both candidates promised to increase the transportation budget of the state. On the most narrow margin (traffic law enforcement), the aspiring quasi-executives might have had probable cause to enter a budgetary discussion. But, in the main, nothing in the Virginia state Constitution or even the VA AG’s own description of the office licenses the Attorney General to build roads. Furthermore, these fellas are fussing over I-81, an interstate highway governed, presumably, by the Department of Transportation.

All politicians are promissory animals; arguably, few deliver their promises. McDonnell and Deeds differ only in that their promises rest on lawsuits of dubious legality. But why shouldn’t they make such promises? Publicly elected private enforcers have one-way motivation: sue, regardless of harm. If they don’t, people might notice that the ideal AG has little power. Or they might forget the Attorney General altogether.

Alas! He sues, and sues forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make sad the heart of citizenship.