What Does the Attorney General Do?

Lessons From Coach Phil: An Introduction

Whenever I began teaching a new class at the University of Colorado Law School, I told my students, “Please call me Phil or Professor Weiser, whatever you’re more comfortable with.”  And I would always add, “If you’re not comfortable with either, please call me Coach.”  Over the years, a significant number of students have taken me up on the third option, calling me “Coach Phil.”

As I take on this campaign to be Colorado’s next Attorney General, one of the core challenges I face is that most Coloradans don’t know that they have an Attorney General or they don’t know what the office does.  For me, this challenge is an opportunity to teach.

So I’ve created a series of videos and blog posts to explain my plan to represent all Coloradans and lead the Attorney General’s office as a force for progress in our state.  The first video in this series is my Introduction to the Teaching Series.  The second one is What Does the AG’s Office Do?  Please watch them both and forward them to anyone you know who would like to learn more about our Attorney General’s office.

Read below for more information about the set of posts and videos to come (as well as some of those we’ve already shared).

Watch the Video Below:

A New Kind of Leadership

One reason so many Americans are cynical about government is that some public officials play political stunts or allow their offices to run on autopilot.  Under our current Attorney General, we see both problems in full view.

In the political stunt category, the lawsuit that our current Attorney General (AG) brought against Boulder County on its moratorium on oil and gas drilling is a case in point.  The fact that this lawsuit was brought without first reaching out to Boulder County to explore possible solutions underscores that there was very little interest on the part of our AG in solving a problem.  Rather, the goal of this case was to make a political punching bag out of Boulder County.  Indeed, as Boulder County did address the issue (announcing its oil and gas development ordinance shortly after the case was filed), the case was quickly dismissed and widely criticized as a ploy, leading to a bipartisan rebuke.  But for localities, the damage from this case was done.  Our AG had established that she would rather play political games than collaborate to ensure the legal and safe management of oil and gas development.

The challenge of inertia presents a very different threat than political stunts.  In the case of inertia, an agency continues to address an issue the way it has previously, never asking if there is a better way. The results of inertia can be devastating.  Consider the Obama Administration’s terrible rollout of the healthcare.gov website, for example.  In the case of our AG’s office, consider a recent embarrassing loss where the judge sanctioned the office and called the lack of evidence behind the case “breathtaking and amateurish.”  These mistakes happen because people stop asking basic questions like “Is this the right way to solve this problem?” or “Is this case focused on a problem that needs to be solved?”

As our next Attorney General, I will bring principled and innovative leadership to the office.  This means that the office will always focus on problem solving and asking how we can make progress on a range of issues.  As I explain in my video on What Does the AG’s Office Do?, the AG’s Office has a range of tools at its disposal.  For me, it’s important that we keep them all in mind and take an innovative approach to problem solving by finding the best way to address issues—and not simply relying on the way they have been handled in the past.  I discuss the importance of an innovative mindset in this blog post and this video.

The Core Priorities of the Office

Since announcing my candidacy, I have emphasized that our Attorney General needs to defend our freedoms, fight for opportunity for all Coloradans, and protect our land, air, and water.   In the series of videos and posts to follow, I will offer more elaboration on these core commitments and how our Attorney General should advance these important goals.

Defending Our Freedoms and Fighting for Equality

I’m proud of our constitutional democracy, and I’m running for Attorney General because our country’s commitment to freedom is being tested.  Our Founders envisioned a world where Congress would be responsible for overseeing the executive branch.  Today, however, only one branch of government is functioning effectively—our independent federal courts.  As I explain in my New Separation of Powers’ blog post, State AGs across the country have stepped up to fight for our freedoms and to defend equality, providing a valuable check on executive branch overreaches, such as the decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.  Our AG in Colorado has not stepped up, however, remaining complicit with actions that undermine equality, freedoms, and our democracy.

My vision for the Attorney General’s office is to serve as a force for protecting our freedoms and our democracy.  This is something I talk a lot about on the campaign trail.  As a first-generation American, I grew up with a love of this country.  And I am inspired by Ben Franklin’s observation and caution that he told Americans after the Constitution was drafted:  “you have a Republic, as long as you can keep it.”

I served as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when several historic Supreme Court cases about equality were decided, including the landmark Romer v. Evans case that protected the rights of gays and lesbians and US v. Virginia, which called for the admission of women into the Virginia Military Institute.  But continued progress toward equal justice for all cannot be taken for granted.  We as citizens cannot be complacent about these issues; we must be engaged, work with responsible leaders, and have moral courage to make progress.  As Attorney General, I will fight for equality for all and I will challenge discrimination in all its forms. Fighting for progress on the issues of race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and identity, and gender is part of my life’s work, and I will continue that work as your Attorney General.

Fighting for Opportunity for All

For many Coloradans, the deck feels stacked against them.  Whether they are suffering from predatory debt or a dependence on opioids, people who have been taken advantage of by irresponsible businesses need our Attorney General to defend them.  I will be that Attorney General.  But I also intend to do more:  I will work to support economic opportunity for all Coloradans, starting by ensuring that all Coloradans have broadband Internet access and can participate in the 21st century economy and protecting network neutrality.

Protecting Our Land, Air and Water

For our next generation, protecting our land, air, and water is a moral imperative.  If we don’t make progress on building a clean energy economy, we won’t address the challenge of climate change.  Our current Attorney General has joined former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in undermining protections for our land, air, and water.  We deserve better from our Attorney General.

Join My Team

Like any good teacher, I truly want your questions.  Please send them to me at phil@philforcolorado.com, so I can answer them and we can work together for the future of our state.  And please send my posts and videos to others so they can learn about me and my campaign.  Similarly, when I post testimonials from former students about my commitment to supporting others, please share them so others can get to know what type of person I am and what type of Attorney General I will be.

For us to elect the Attorney General we deserve, we need to educate all Coloradans about what our Attorney General’s office does and why I’m the best person for the job.   Thanks so much for your help on my journey to serve our state and be “Coach Phil” for all Coloradans.


Video: What Baseball Teaches About America

The values of the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers World Series exhibited the same qualities that Phil Weiser, candidate for Colorado Attorney General, wants to bring to the Colorado Attorney General office: hard work, dedication, a refusal to give up, and real ingenuity. Congratulations to the Houston Astros and looking forward to celebrating the Colorado Rockies' first World Series victory next year.

Watch the Video Below:


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.

Transcription:
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.


What Does the State Attorney General Do?

It’s hard to explain why the Attorney General’s office matters so much when many people wonder what the AG does in the first place.  Let me take this opportunity to clarify what this office does and why Coloradans need to elect a new AG in 2018.

For starters, our AG leads the way when the federal government acts out of step with our best interests and our values. After the Trump Administration tried to ban immigration on the basis of religion, a number of brave AGs stood up to the federal government to defend our constitutional rights. Our AG also stops companies from cheating consumers and protects our State’s land, water, and air. Finally, in what I have made a central part of my life’s work, our AG should lead the fight for opportunity and innovation to ensure a bright future for all Coloradans. I’m running for Attorney General of the State of Colorado because I want to work for Coloradans and because I believe in the promise and potential of this office.

The Attorney General Works for You

Not so long ago, races for Attorney General didn’t get much attention or support. But the Republican Party has changed that. Funded by the Koch Brothers and others, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) has targeted AG races around the country to move their agenda, even in progressive states. Here’s proof that the office of State Attorney General matters, and the Republicans know it: in Colorado’s last AG election, RAGA put five times as much money into the race as Cynthia Coffman raised herself. That’s part of a nation-wide trend. In 2000, Republicans only held 12 of the 51 AG positions. Today, they control 29 of them! Republican AGs–and those funding their campaigns through RAGA–recognize the power of leading the Attorney General’s office.

Why make the effort to win AGs races?    Because the Attorney General’s office can either be a powerful engine for protecting people or be used in counterproductive ways. Led by an innovative and committed AG, the office defends our constitutional freedoms (like the challenges we’ve seen to the Trump administration from AGs around the country), stands up for consumers when their homes are foreclosed on illegally, and protects our land, air, and water from polluters. Sadly, in Colorado, the AG office is not focused on solving problems or serving all Coloradans. Instead, our current AG, Cynthia Coffman, is wasting time and money filing suits that make a political statement, such as the one against Boulder County for its management of oil and gas development.

The Attorney General Upholds American Values on the State Level and Beyond

For those of us who are angered by the developments in Washington, we need leadership at the state level to represent our values. During a time when President Trump has proposed an illegal travel ban and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently raised sentences for non-violent drug offenders, it is the States–and not the Congress–who are providing a check on Presidential power and overreach.  In particular, the State AGs are leading the fight to preserve our cherished American values and, with new leadership in the Colorado AG’s office, we can stand up to what is happening in Washington and make Colorado a model for the nation.

I will fight for our constitutional rights because our freedoms are deeply personal to me. I am the first in my family to be born an American citizen; my mom was born in a concentration camp at the end of World War II and came to this country for its freedoms and opportunity when she was six. Early in my career, I worked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when the Supreme Court struck down Colorado’s anti-gay law (Amendment 2) and when women were first admitted to the Virginia Military Institute. So I welcome the opportunity to vigorously defend our civil rights, including those of women, LGBTQ individuals, and immigrants.

The Attorney General Protects Our Natural Resources

 As your next Attorney General, I will continue Colorado’s leadership on protecting our land, air, and water. I will also reject U.S. EPA head Scott Pruitt’s denial of climate change and agenda to undermine U.S. international leadership to protect our planet. Instead, I’ll defend rules we have recently developed to address methane emissions during oil and gas development, and I’ll follow Ken Salazar’s example of reinvigorating environmental enforcement at the Colorado AG’s office. When Ken was our AG, he established an environmental crimes unit and brought cases that protected our water, land, and air, like his action to address the water contamination involving the Summitville Mine. And Ken Salazar has endorsed me in this race because he believes I am the best candidate to do just that.

The Attorney General Fights for Opportunities for All

I worked with President Obama in the aftermath of the Great Recession to make life better for all Americans, and I’ll be an AG who fights for opportunities for all Coloradans. Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked hard to build an environment where Colorado entrepreneurs can create new companies, where all Coloradans have access to broadband Internet service, and where, even without a college degree, Coloradans can have access to good-paying jobs.  That’s why I am a founding Board member and Board Secretary of CareerWise Colorado, which is pioneering an apprenticeship-based education model here in Colorado.  As your AG, I will continue this leadership, with a powerful platform, the ability to work with leaders around the State, and a commitment to making Colorado a model for the US.

Join Me

I can’t lead the Attorney General’s office without your help. Please join me in convincing all Coloradans of the importance of electing a new AG in 2018. I am delighted by the support we are getting from around the state, but we need more help to make this campaign successful. Please email info@philforcolorado.com to join us.

With the Koch Brothers poised to contribute substantially to defeat me, I need real people willing to make contributions to support my campaign. Every dollar counts and I welcome your support at philforcolorado.com/donate-to-phil. Thanks for joining me in this journey. It matters.