CWAG Weekly Roundup
October 23, 2014



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CWAG Associate Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma

was awarded the George Washington Medal of Freedom by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The George Washington Medal of Freedom is the foundation's highest award and recognizes individuals in their communities who "go above and beyond the call of duty on a local, regional or national level which promote good works and serve their communities on an ongoing, day-to-day basis." "Community service and civic engagement are among the bedrock principles upon which our nation was founded. It's an honor to serve the citizens of Oklahoma as attorney general and I greatly appreciate receiving this award from the Freedoms Foundation," General Pruitt said. 


CWAG Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota

announced that two of his employees have received national recognition for their roles in the multi-jurisdictional investigation "Operation Stolen Youth." BCI Special Agent Steve Gilpin and Crime Laboratory Forensic Scientist Charlene Keller received notification of the honor earlier this week. The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) of the US Department of Justice announced that Operation Stolen Youth had been named the 2014 OCDETF Outstanding Investigation for Creative Response to Emerging Public Safety Threat. "Special Agent Gilpin and Ms. Keller are exceptional individuals, hard-working and dedicated state employees, and I am very proud to say they work for the Office of Attorney General," said General Stenehjem. Operation Stolen Youth was initiated in June 2012, after two teenagers in the Grand Forks area died of a drug overdose. The OCDEFT award recognizes the efforts of the state and federal investigation that shut down a nationwide synthetic drug trafficking ring and resulted in the successful prosecution of 15 individuals.  


CWAG Associate Attorney General Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas

announced that Chief Deputy Attorney General Brad Phelps will assume a new position at Arkansas State University. Phelps is leaving the Attorney General's Office after more than four years as chief deputy. General McDaniel also announced that Chief of Staff Erika Gee will succeed Phelps as Chief Deputy Attorney General. The Attorney General's Press Secretary, Aaron Sadler, was named Chief Administrative Officer and will assume many of Gee's previous duties. Mr. Phelps has been an attorney with the office for 11 years and has been Chief Deputy Attorney General since April 2010. "Brad deserves significant credit for some historic accomplishments that would not have happened but for his leadership," General McDaniel said. "It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with Brad. Arkansas State is very lucky to have a man with his judgment and intellect on its team as ASU looks to its own very bright future." 




CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California

announced the take down of a transnational criminal organization based in Contra Costa County, including the arrest of 22 individuals and the seizure of 500 pounds of methamphetamine and over $700,000 in U.S. Currency. The take down, named Operation Road Trip, represents the culmination of several related investigations targeting California-based Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO) connected to Mexico's Sinaloa Federation drug cartel. These investigations, which were led by California Department of Justice task forces that include federal, state and local law enforcement partners, have to date, resulted in 67 arrests and the seizure of $40 million of methamphetamine and $1.82 million in U.S. Currency over the past six years. "This operation demonstrates our continuing commitment to focus on the connection between transnational criminal organizations and organized street gangs in California," General Harris said. "We will do whatever is necessary with our federal and local partners to dismantle these violent, insidious organizations."  




CWAG Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado

submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding proposed revisions to the definition of "Waters of the United States (WOTUS)" under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rulemaking by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeks to define "Waters of the United States" as any water with "a significant nexus" to navigable waters, which may include tributaries, adjacent waters and "other waters." General Suthers contends such an expansion of EPA jurisdiction over waters in Colorado could have devastating economic impacts for farmers, water providers, small businesses and local governments due to the expense of complying with the increased regulation. He also contends the proposed rule infringes on the states' traditional authority to protect and manage the state's water resources. "Contrary to their claims, the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers' proposed revisions to the definition of 'Waters of the United States' poses a significant threat to state sovereignty and an economic threat to businesses and local governments in Colorado," said General Suthers. "I join with the multitudes of other interested parties in asking the federal government to abandon this proposed rule." 


U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the Obama administration will continue to use its executive powers to protect public lands until Congress takes action on a number of stalled conservation measures. Secretary Jewell renewed the administration's threat while speaking to a few hundred wilderness advocates at a national conference in Albuquerque celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. "There are dozens of bills in Congress, and they need to be passed - dozens of bipartisan bills, bills with wide support, broad support - but no one has the courage to pass them," she said. "We need to encourage this Congress to get on with it and to move forward. Otherwise, we will take action. We have a little bit of an east-west divide in this country between those who yearn for more public lands and those who find it expedient to push back on federal public lands," she said.




CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington

announced that a superior court judge agreed with an opinion issued by the Attorney General's Office last year, concluding that nothing in Initiative 502 overrides local governments' authority to regulate or ban marijuana businesses. The plaintiffs in the case sought to open a marijuana business in Wenatchee despite the city's ban on such businesses. "My office is working aggressively to uphold the will of the voters," said General Ferguson. "Today's ruling affirms the opinion of my office earlier this year and allows Initiative 502 to continue to be implemented in Washington State. As I have said from the beginning, the drafters of Initiative 502 could have required local jurisdictions to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. It could have been done in a single sentence, but it was not. Now it is up to the Legislature to decide whether to require local governments to allow for the sale of marijuana." 




CWAG Associate Attorney General William Sorrell of Vermont

announced that the Vermont Superior Court issued a decision concluding that the Republican Governors Association ("RGA") violated Vermont law by accepting contributions in excess of $2,000 during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The RGA claimed it should be exempt from contribution limits because it qualified as an independent-expenditure-only committee. The Vermont Attorney General's Office disagreed that RGA was an independent-expenditure-only committee and argued it must abide by the contribution limits. The Court stated, "Expenditures cannot be truly 'independent' if they are entirely controlled by the identical entity that is simultaneously making expenditures in coordination or cooperation with a campaign or party." General Sorrell said he is pleased with the court's decision. "If a PAC wants to receive unlimited contributions, it must be functionally distinct from PACs that contribute to candidates. Mere separation in name only is insufficient protection against the possibility that funds may flow through the 'independent' group to candidates."

Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102


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