Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel Is Making It Rain

Dustin McDaniel is makin' it rainJohn Brummett’s recent column about Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s questionable and self-serving use of legal settlement funds lays out the start of a good case that McDaniel is abusing his office for political gain.

Brummett asked McDaniel under what authority the attorney general had to spend settlement money, which he supposedly holds in trust for the people of Arkansas, to fund a new branch of his own office that would investigate computer sex crimes.

McDaniel replied that his actions were justified by cy pres, which “he called a time-honored judicial doctrine that holds that settlement dollars ought to go toward addressing the failings made evident by the lawsuit.”

McDaniel is simply wrong, and his interpretation of cy pres represents a perversion of the legal doctrine. I’ve laid out the case against McDaniel’s misapplication of the doctrine in a paper here (opens in PDF).

The larger problem that McDaniel’s actions illuminate is the establishment of an essentially unchecked fourth branch of government in the AG’s office, in which the office seizes for itself executive, legislative, and judicial powers.

McDaniel insists that it is his prerogative both to redirect and to spend public money, powers that are conventionally confined to judges and legislators. McDaniel, although hardly the first AG to exploit the office’s authority for political gain, seems intent on pushing the envelope.

At a wonderfully hypocritical February 2010 press conference where he first announced the settlement, McDaniel alleged that the Zyprexa manufacturers “didn’t care what they were doing to taxpayers.” The same thing could easily be said about McDaniel. Check out my paper for more detail.

Comments

  1. timetorun says:

    I’m guessing Kinkade is in charge of headlines and photo shoping.

  2. Rep Jane english had a bill that would have brought the cash fund under the legislature. It died in a committee after McDaniels staff spoke against it. Of course the committee was a majority Dems- the same committee that voted to pass the Fayetteville Finger map.

Trackbacks

  1. […] also came across a great post from Dan Greenberg at the recently resurrected The Arkansas Project where he also took Mr. McDaniel to task. His money quote at the end was so good, we’re going […]

  2. […] Greenberg, whose blog post at The Arkansas Project we previously linked to, gets into a bit more detail of Mr. McDaniel’s creative use of the doctrine of cy […]

  3. […] Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s self-serving, politicized use of government funds has been blasted by liberal columnists and conservative lawmakers. I’ve written about it on this site. […]

  4. […] McDaniel’s office collects lots of money from legal settlements. The AG then turns around and doles that money out to selected good causes that, by coincidence, benefit him […]

  5. […] happen to have been voted appropriations by the state legislature [John Brummett, Arkansas News; Dan Greenberg, The Arkansas Project, and […]

  6. […] cy pres slush fund in Arkansas. [Greenberg via Overlawyered; more on cy pres at […]