Republican legislators’ attack on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is an unconstitutional power grab. Not only is this action a betrayal of basic constitutional principles, it will likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lost settlements.
In addition, this legislation insults the decisions of Iowa voters that have made Miller the nation’s longest serving Attorney General. He was reelected in 2018 with a historic endorsement of 76.5% of Iowa voters. That super majority percentage demonstrates Iowa voters have total confidence in Miller as their chief legal officer.
The Republican legislation would require Miller to ask permission from the governor, Executive Council or General Assembly to file or join lawsuits outside of Iowa. It was passed by both the House and Senate and now goes to the Governor. She is uncommitted on signing the legislation.
This legislation clearly violates the constitutional separation of powers, a doctrine basic to both Iowa and America’s democratic principles. It’s an incredibly hypocritical move from Republican Party members that lecture Democrats about strict obedience to the constitution.
The founding fathers were very clear and extremely committed to the checks and balances guaranteed by the separation of powers. As head of the Iowa Department of Justice and the state’s chief legal officer, Miller’s independence is essential to exercising his constitutional responsibilities. Republicans should be condemned for this blatant unconstitutional abuse of power.
The proposed legislation repudiates Miller’s remarkable accomplishments in reimbursing the Iowa treasury for damages suffered from bad corporate actors. GOP lawmakers should be forced to justify to taxpayers why they want to strip Miller’s ability to provide billions of dollars in settlements to the state treasury.
Miller’s 1998 landmark tobacco lawsuit alone has paid in excess of $1 billion to Iowans. The tobacco settlement is the biggest windfall for the state, but Miller has reaped other very lucrative payouts that have benefited Iowa taxpayers. Restricting Miller’s ability to penalize corporate bad actors in the future will severely limit Iowans’ right to fair reimbursement for damages suffered.
In addition, Republicans must explain why they are defying the decisions of Iowa voters. Iowa voters understand the importance of an independent legal system. Miller has had unequaled electoral support from both Democrats and Republicans. Republicans failed to field a candidate against Miller in 2018 because they know Miller has earned the overwhelming trust of Iowans.
In 2018, Miller received the support of over 880,000 Iowa voters because they believe he will protect their legal rights. Compare that to Governor Reynolds who only polled 667,000 Iowa voters in her 2018 reelection. Iowans trust Miller far more than either Governor Reynolds or the legislature to protect their legal rights.
The Republican legislature’s attack on Miller is just the latest in a continuing series of unconstitutional and anti-democratic schemes. If Governor Reynold signs this shocking legislation she will have once again put party before country.
by Rick Smith