What Does the Attorney General Do?

Video: What does the Attorney General Do Anyway?

Watch the video, below:

Phil Weiser, candidate for Colorado Attorney General, describes what the Attorney General does, and, why it is important for all Coloradans.

Hi. My name is Phil Weiser, and I'm running to be Colorado's next Attorney General. On the campaign trail, the question I get more than any other question is: what does the Attorney General do, anyway? So, let me tell you. The Attorney General oversees an office of 484 people, 270 lawyers, and those lawyers, they work for all of us. They represent every Coloradan, whether it's our civil rights, our consumer rights, our rights as a worker, or protecting our land, air, and water. This office needs to have our back. But, this office doesn't only bring lawsuits, even against the federal government. This office works with others, including our state legislature, County commissioners, district attorneys, county sheriffs - working together we can solve a range of challenges from criminal justice reform to the opioid crisis to ensuring that all Coloradans have access to broadband Internet access. This is something that I want to do as our next Attorney General because we need a leader in an office with energy, creativity, and vision... who can work effectively with others to solve problems. So, please, support us and join my campaign to become Colorado's next Attorney General.


Guest Commentary: Bernie Buescher - Why Phil Weiser Is the Best AG Candidate for All of Colorado

In 2018, Colorado will have the opportunity to elect a new Attorney General. We deserve an innovative, energetic leader who can make the office work for all Coloradans. As someone who has worked with Phil Weiser and seen what he can do, I know that he is the right choice for our next Attorney General.

I first met Phil in 2011 when he returned to Colorado after working for President Obama as the Senior Advisor on Technology and Innovation in the White House’s National Economic Council. After his tour of duty in Washington (he also served as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice), he returned to Colorado to serve as the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School. For Phil, this marked his second return to Colorado after working in Washington. His first such return came in 1999 after serving as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and working as the counsel to the head of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

Phil’s leadership as the Dean of the CU Law School got my attention. During his time as Dean, he put the interests of the students above all else, working to lower average indebtedness (it fell $16,000 for students who started after Phil became Dean), increase employment opportunities for our graduates (CU was ranked in the top twenty in this category), promote diversity and inclusiveness (Phil was honored for this work by the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association), and raise the profile of the law school (its ranking rose over 10 places during his Deanship). In doing all of this, Phil was an entrepreneurial leader, engaging the community, bringing national leaders (including Justice Ginsburg) to CU Law, and defying national trends (the applications rate at CU Law rose 10% during a time when they fell 40% nationwide).

Phil’s passion for all of Colorado really impressed me. At CU Law, he encouraged law students to work outside the Denver-Boulder area, providing scholarships to any students who did so. He also created an endowed program (a $7 million endowment) for loan repayment assistance, providing support to pay off student debts for those students who took jobs in under-served areas of Colorado or who went into public services positions. Moreover, he worked with the Colorado District Attorneys Council to enact legislation that created a rural DA fellowship program where recent law school grads went to work in rural DA offices, aiding law enforcement in those areas and providing valuable opportunities to recent law grads. As part of the Silicon Flatirons Center, which he founded, he spearheaded the Startup Colorado initiative, which supports emerging startup communities around our state. Finally, as Dean, Phil traveled all around the state to meet and support alumni.

What makes Phil really exceptional is that he is one of those leaders who takes an entrepreneurial and can-do attitude to problem solving.  All too often, government functions on auto-pilot, continuing to do what it has always done.  Under Phil’s leadership, the Attorney General’s office will be an engine for progress, with an innovative and creative problem-solving mindset that will improve our state and the lives of all Coloradans.  Whatever issue comes up—whether it’s health care, bringing broadband to all parts of our state, protecting our water rights, or reforming our criminal justice system—Phil will be a leader who brings people together, finds creative solutions, and gets things done.

In the White House for President Obama, Phil spearheaded a significant broadband initiative that resulted in bipartisan legislation.  Here in Colorado, he founded (and got me engaged with) the Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, which creates teams of people from the State of Colorado, the City of Denver, and law students to solve cutting edge challenges through entrepreneurial methods. For a great summary of that program, and Phil’s leadership, check out this article.

It’s tempting to grow cynical or feel deflated about the future of our politics and our government. Now, more than ever, we need leaders like Phil, who genuinely care about all Coloradans, bring an innovative spirit and mindset to government, and know how to get things done. That’s why I am supporting him to be our next Attorney General and I encourage you to join me in helping get him elected in 2018.

Bernie Buescher is a lawyer in private practice and the former Deputy Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Representative from Grand Junction, and an entrepreneur.

Montezuma County Democrats

Bringing Innovation to the Attorney General’s Office

I’m inspired by the opportunity to reinvent and revitalize the office of Attorney General in Colorado.  Under its current leadership, the office is often left on auto-pilot, with little direction, guidance, or energy from the top.  In my past leadership roles (in President Obama’s Administration, at the University of Colorado Law School, and in Colorado’s entrepreneurial community), I placed a premium on working collaboratively, and I always looked for new ways to do things better.  I plan to bring that spirit to the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

All too often, government (and the private sector) approaches an issue by asking, “How have we handled this before?”  But the premise of entrepreneurial leadership is openness to new experiments and to the evaluation of the experiments performed by others.  I want to bring this innovative mindset to the office of Attorney General. So I’ll start by addressing the question “What’s the best way we can approach this challenge?”

When I founded the Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator program, I tapped into Colorado’s spirit of entrepreneurial leadership to transform governmental approaches to problem solving.  Over the last two years, this program has worked with the State of Colorado and the City of Denver to identify challenging issues and to pioneer new solutions presented to State and City officials.  During that time, it has developed innovative solutions to addressing the opioid epidemic, transportation for homeless individuals, and getting broadband access to low-income school children.   In addition to developing innovative solutions, the teams of governmental professionals and students in this program receive valuable training and mentorship. This inspires them to innovate in their work and accelerates their professional development.  For a recent report on this program, see this article.

Entrepreneurial leadership is important because many challenges don’t have simple or straightforward solutions.  Take the issues around for-profit education, for example.  To be sure, we need our Attorney General to protect consumers by suing fraudulent providers of education who leave students saddled with debt, no marketable skills, and no job (like Trump University did).  But we also need legitimate for-profit skills-development programs that help students master the tools they need to succeed in today’s economy (like Galvanize here in Colorado does).  Our Attorney General can work with legitimate providers of skills education to develop a program where companies that follow best practices are recognized for doing so and all institutions are held accountable for the commitments they make to their students.

In our economy, certification and validation of the claims made by companies is one of the critical roles for our government.  In industries where consumers cannot trust what some companies promise, as is the case in for-profit education, the entire industry suffers.  For certification programs—like the LEED building standard or the Energy Star program—to work, they need a watchdog on the case to look out for consumers.  As our next Attorney General, I want to make sure such programs can develop and work effectively, making sure that consumers get what they pay for.  For a description of how such programs can work, see my thoughts on this topic.

We in Colorado have a great opportunity to draw on our pioneering and innovative spirit by electing leaders who are committed to an entrepreneurial approach to government.  My track record of such leadership, inside and outside of government, goes back two decades, through my work with leaders here in Colorado to start new programs and solve problems.  The Governmental Entrepreneurial Leadership Accelerator program is just one of many examples.  With your help, I can bring that spirit to our Attorney General’s office.

Four Generations

Our Nation of Immigrants

We often refer to our country as “a nation of immigrants.” For me, this concept is personal—my mom came to the United States in 1951 as a refugee, after being born in a Nazi concentration camp at the end of World War II. My grandparents and my mom came here because of America’s commitment to freedom and opportunity for all. Unfortunately, President Trump’s approach to immigration—including his reported decision to terminate the DACA program—threatens the foundation of what makes our nation great. People wanting to come to this country now have to go through a process of biometric data collection and interviews. Although this doesn't sound too bad, people are judged straight away in the interview from the way they are dressed. People can read more here if they want to understand how important the outfit is in the interview process. Back when my parents moved to America, security wasn't this high and interviews weren't conducted. To protect our immigrants from being criminalized before they've even entered the country, we need engaged citizens and responsible leaders to step forward. I’m running for Attorney General to be one of those leaders.

During Barack Obama’s Presidency, Congress failed to pass the sort of comprehensive and sensible immigration reform that our Senator Michael Bennet spearheaded and that our country desperately needed. So President Obama used his executive authority—and discretion on how to enforce our laws—to make a promise to the children of undocumented immigrants: they could be productive members of our society and not have to live in the shadows. These are kids who were brought here by their parents and who cannot recall living anywhere other than in the United States. This program, “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals,” or DACA, enjoys wide support and makes powerful economic sense. But a number of Republican State Attorneys General have challenged DACA. Sadly, our current Attorney General here in Colorado has remained silent on this issue, rather than criticize the suit by other State AGs and call on the Trump Administration to maintain this program.

Trump announced that DACA will end in 6 months. Such a decision threats the lives of hard-working individuals who have only known life here in the United States. It would force them back into the shadows. It also hurts our nation by breaking a commitment to immigrants who trusted our government to keep its word, by creating a self-inflicted economic wound, and by causing fear and disruption for hundreds of thousands of young people in jobs, in the military, or in school. We need our Attorney General to support DACA and to work with our institutions, including our colleges and schools, to ensure that DACA recipients are treated fairly—especially if Trump ends the program and leaves them in a precarious situation.

Currently, the Trump Administration is seeking to enlist states and cities in its effort to deport law-abiding members of our communities. In a display of responsible leadership, Denver is refusing to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in targeting undocumented individuals. Mayor Michael Hancock has made it clear that Denver is safer because it protects our undocumented community members when they come to court to testify about crimes. On the other hand, President Trump’s policy is inhumane and threatens to make us less safe.

As our next Attorney General, I will defend our state, our cities, and our counties’ decisions to refuse to cooperate with DHS in deporting law-abiding members of our communities. I will also join other State Attorneys General to challenge the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional discrimination against Muslims seeking to immigrate to the United States. So far, our federal courts have stopped the Trump travel ban from taking full effect. Our Attorney General, unfortunately, has refused to join with other State Attorneys General to protect our nation’s tradition of welcoming immigrants regardless of their religion, race, or economic background.

Our nation’s greatness owes a lot to our welcoming attitude toward immigrants from around the world who come here to share their talent and hard work and to benefit from our freedoms and economic opportunity. My family has lived this experience. As Attorney General, I will fight for the humane and welcoming treatment of our immigrants, including DACA recipients and undocumented individuals living here productively. And I will be one of the State Attorneys General standing up against religious discrimination of those seeking to immigrate here.