Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has filed a motion seeking dismissal of the suit alleging she spent public money for her own political purposes, including ranging far outside Arkansas to join politically motivated court cases, such as the effort to block the electoral college vote for Joe Biden.
The lawsuit, filed by Richard H. Mays on behalf of eight taxpayers, alleges Rutledge has gone far beyond the statutorily authorized “interests of the state” in pursuing lawsuits such as the Biden challenge and that she’d even tried to raise money for her gubernatorial campaign by touting her lawsuit intervention. It challenged her spending of about $2 million from her consumer protection fund (much of it was won in lawsuits, but these are public dollars appropriated by the legislature) on advertising that prominently featured her. One part of Rutledge’s complaint is that this is not tax money. But tax money also supports her office’s time spent on the various legal activities, including the lawsuits that produced financial verdicts that contributed to her advertising fund.
Rutledge argues that the lawsuit seems to say unless her actions have 100 percent support they are impermissible. She said the plaintiffs just don’t like her politics and the lawsuit is based on speculation. She also faults the plaintiffs for only suing her individually.
She said the law gives her broad discretion in her activities and the statute places no limitation on where she may participate in court cases.
Plaintiffs contend that the acts of the Attorney General joining amicus briefs before the United States Supreme Court or other federal courts were not in the interests of the State. Of course Arkansans have an interest in the outcome of a presidential election, and the scope and breadth of federal regulations, and the continued existence of organizations that fight for constitutional rights. These are legitimate matters of general public concern and these matters can be addressed by law or policy. What Plaintiffs mean when they complain about the Attorney General’s litigation is that they disagree with the position she took in these particular matters.
But, again, it is impossible for any attorney general of any political party to obtain a
consensus among 100% of the electorate at any given time on any issue which he or she believes to be in the interests of the state. Requiring such would completely hamstring the attorney general from doing anything, and that surely is not the law.
She said her advertising, related to her consumer protection division, was consistent with that work.
Rutledge also asserts the attorney general is immune from lawsuits for discretionary acts and the court should rule on this question before further development of the suit.
The case has been assigned to Judge Alice Gray. Mays will have an opportunity to respond to the motion to dismiss.