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.

Phil Weiser - 4th of July Parade

Holding Onto Our Traditions in a Changing World

Last week, we celebrated July 4th, the anniversary of one of the world’s great experiments in democracy. The Declaration of Independence famously announced “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The American experiment, in other words, established a commitment to protect our freedoms and enable opportunity for all.

Defending Our Constitutional Freedoms

The Constitution was adopted to enforce and advance the vision set out in the Declaration of Independence. Under our Constitution, we have established a set of core freedoms—the freedom of the press, the freedom of religion, equal protection for all, and the due process of law (which means people must be treated fairly by their government and legal system). These freedoms, however, are not self-enforcing and require institutions, citizens, and leaders to enforce and advance them.

Today, we face a challenging environment that is testing our constitutional and democratic institutions. As one conservative commentator has put it, President Trump is an “institutional arsonist,” threatening to do grave damage to our democracy and legal system. What will enable our democracy and constitutional system to endure? Active citizens and leaders stepping up to protect our constitutional freedoms and traditions. For me, this imperative is a central reason I am running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General.

Fighting for the American Dream

Another powerful reason I’m running to be Colorado’s next Attorney General is my belief in the American Dream. The American Dream is the promise that each generation should be able to look forward to building on the progress of their parents and building a better life for themselves—the pursuit of happiness, in other words. I experienced this promise firsthand because my parents, who came to this country as immigrants (my mom after surviving the Holocaust), were the first in their families to go to college and climb the ladder of opportunity. And I, in turn, benefited from the opportunities they had.

Today, many Coloradans experience a world where their lives are getting harder, and they are not being treated fairly as citizens, workers, and consumers. When I talk about fighting for opportunities for all Coloradans, I mean that we must develop strategies and institutions to change this equation—whether it is protecting Coloradans from voter suppression efforts, fighting wage theft from workers, or standing up to pharmaceutical companies engaging in price fixing that leads to higher drug prices for consumers. And we will need to do more than that to adapt to today’s changing economy, including enabling all Coloradans to have broadband Internet access, developing skills training opportunities for those not going to college, and supporting an environment where businesses can be started around our State. Thankfully, Coloradans are not afraid of change, are adaptable, and willing to experiment.

Safeguarding Our Land, Air, and Water

Finally, to thrive in the 21st century, we must protect our land, air, and water so that our children can live healthy lives in an era where climate change will transform our world. We can manage and address climate change by, for example, developing strategies for overseeing oil and gas development that restrict methane emissions. Colorado proudly developed the template for managing methane emissions—through collaborative and innovative leadership from our Governor—that the EPA later adopted. Unfortunately, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt initially challenged those rules as the Oklahoma Attorney General and has led an effort for the EPA to abandon them. Our Governor John Hickenlooper and others successfully challenged this effort by EPA Administrator Pruitt, but our AG stayed on the sidelines in this battle, forcing the Governor to hire private counsel.

Joining This Mission

In 2018, we can elect an Attorney General who is committed to protecting our freedoms, fighting for opportunity for all Coloradans, and safeguarding our land, air, and water. This is going to require engaged citizens and a campaign inspired by and true to our nation’s ideals. I look forward to running such a campaign and welcome you to join me however you are able to support our mission.