It’s not their money to waste

IT’S NOT THEIR MONEY TO WASTE…. When conservative state attorneys general file frivolous lawsuits challenging the constitutionality against the Affordable Care Act — litigation that even conservative legal experts agree has no merit — they’re not just wasting time. They’re also wasting taxpayer money at a time when states can hardly afford to throw money at pointless court challenges.

Yesterday, Virginia’s shockingly-conservative AG, Ken Cuccinelli, prepared a response to those concerned about squandering public funds.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said his office has only spent $350 to file a lawsuit seeking to block federal health care reform in Virginia, reiterating previous comments about the cost of the pending litigation.

Virginia Democrats last week filed an open records request seeking information about the expense to taxpayers associated with Cuccinelli’s legal challenge.

They also sought information about the time spent working on the case, other law firms involved in the effort, records of contact with others involved in suing the government over health care and the attorney general’s schedule since taking office.

Tuesday’s statement from Cuccinelli, a Republican, indicates that there are no additional costs beyond the filing fee and that his office doesn’t expect to incur many other expenses while handling the case.

See? No problem! Cuccinelli’s office spent $350 on court paperwork, and lo and behold, everything from here on out is just free. Who’s going to complain about a case that only costs the commonwealth $350?

Perhaps those who know Cuccinelli is being ridiculous. As Rachel Maddow, who struggled to explain this without laughing, told viewers last night, “Wait a minute. The attorney general and his staff work for free? They’re doing this one pro-bono — on their own time, with their own office supplies, sitting in their cars in the parking lot or something? Not while they’re at work, having their salaries and all their expenses paid for by the good taxpayers of the state of Virginia? Amazing. Absolutely amazing.”

Cuccinelli is fairly new on the job, and by all appearances, he’s not very bright. So let’s make this simple for him: when the state AG’s office works on a case, that costs taxpayers money. It’s incumbent on a good state AG, then, to work on cases with merit. When state AGs pursue foolish cases because they have an ideological ax to grind, that’s a classic example of — let’s all say it together — wasting taxpayer money.

Indeed, Rachel talked to Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker (D) last night about this — right-wing lawmakers in Georgia now want to impeach Baker because he won’t waste taxpayer money on a frivolous lawsuit — and he explained the problem nicely.

“It’s impossible to have a lawsuit where there are no inherent costs,” Baker said. “Every time you are pulling employees away from their appointed duties to file a lawsuit and to engage in this counter-activity, there’s going to be cost. Lawyers don’t work for free, not even lawyers who work in house. So I’m not aware of any way that a lawsuit can be filed, even if we do it in house, where it doesn’t cost the taxpayer some money.”