CWAG Roundup

October 29, 2015

Greetings! 

 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
 
REGISTRATION OPEN FOR CWAG WINTER DINNER
 
CWAG's "Dinner with the Attorneys General," is set for Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at The Mills House in Charleston, South Carolina.  We invite your participation in this Endowment Dinner benefiting the programs and goals of CWAG.  Attached please find the sponsorship and registration information. This engaging dinner includes participation by approximately 25-30 Attorneys General and their top staff from across the country. We hope your schedule will allow you to attend this year's event and participate in this premier opportunity for exchanging views and forging relationships.  Since seating is limited we ask that you register no later than Monday, November 16 by completing and submitting the attached registration form.  Please note that the cutoff date for our room block is Tuesday, November 10 so we encourage you to contact the Mills House reservations number at 800.874.9600 as soon as possible to secure your room.  Please contact CWAG Meeting Manager, Janine Knudsen, at 916.704.1057 or Janine.Knudsen@CWAGWeb.Org with any questions or to confirm your participation.  
 
SAVE THE DATE
 
CWAG Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorney General Exchange July 16-17, 2016
CWAG Annual Meeting July 17-20, 2016
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley, Idaho
 
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Alliance Partnership, CWAG Chair and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden cordially invite you to attend the 2016 CWAG Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorneys General Exchange and CWAG Annual Meeting.  
 
The Binational State Attorneys General Exchange will be held from July 16 to July 17 at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, immediately followed by the CWAG Annual Meeting which runs from July 17-20, 2016.  
 
CWAG anticipates the attendance of Mexico's Federal Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez, as well as approximately 20 state Attorneys General from Mexico and the United States to be in attendance at the Binational Exchange, in addition to other federal and private partners.  We expect approximately 22-25 state Attorneys General along with their top staff along with other government and private sector partners in attendance at the CWAG Annual Meeting.
 
We also want to advise you that dates have been announced for the RNC and DNC which are in conflict with the CWAG Annual Meeting.  Due to meeting planning beginning years in advance, CWAG will keep our meeting dates and hope you are able to join us.
Please direct any questions regarding the Binational Exchange to Lauren Niehaus atlniehaus@cwagweb.org or the CWAG Annual Meeting to Janine Knudsen atjknudsen@cwagweb.org.
 
CWAG ALLIANCE PARTNERSHIP NEWS
 
The Conference of Western Attorneys General Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorney General Exchange held meetings in Mexico with eight U.S. Attorneys General and Mexican Federal and State Attorneys General to discuss their ongoing binational collaboration on topics such as human trafficking, kidnapping, money laundering and telecommunications privacy in criminal cases. The event featured a private meeting with Mexico's Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez, a series of panels with 26 Mexico State Attorneys General, a meeting with the Charge D' Affairs at the US Embassy and visits to a Human Trafficking Shelter and Mexican Military Narco-trafficking Museum. CWAG's state-level efforts with Mexico span nearly a decade and have resulted in strong relationships with our counterparts in Mexico. CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico said, "Drugs, illegal weapons and now human trafficking are exploding worldwide. Clearly, the message is it's in our backyard and we want to partner with as many law enforcement agencies and prosecution offices as we can, even internationally." Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt stated: "We live in a time when criminal conduct too often crosses the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. It is in our interest to coordinate with Mexican authorities our efforts to combat trans-border crime to improve the likelihood of stopping criminal enterprises before their ill effects are felt here in Kansas." Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said, "It's part of an organized crime element that deals in both commercial sex as well as human trafficking and drugs. So a lot of this is coordinated because it's the same people." CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah said, "In today's global environment, the definition of a 'border state' has been greatly expanded not only in terms of trade and economy - but also crime. Criminal elements in Mexico smuggle drugs, people and counterfeit products into the U.S. while money and weapons are smuggled back into Mexico." "This collaboration is vital to the interests of Rhode Island and the United States. Mexico is our neighbor and is this country's third-largest trading partner. Implementing a new justice system will provide stability, establish the rule of law, and help stem corruption. In turn, this will help weaken drug cartels that otherwise thrive on governmental and societal instability and engage not only in the export of illicit products to our citizens but also in human trafficking," said CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter Kilmartin

FIGHTING PUBLIC CORRUPTION
 
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico announced that New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran pleaded guilty to embezzlement and money laundering for using campaign contributions to pay gambling debts. She had resigned hours earlier, one of the terms of a plea agreement. General Balderas stated: "I am pleased that Dianna Duran has resigned from office and plead guilty to felony embezzlement, money laundering, and violations of the Campaign Reporting Act. Dianna Duran's admission of guilt will allow the State of New Mexico to move forward. Ms. Duran must pay restitution to victims and under the terms of the plea there is 8 years of jurisdiction and sentencing is at the discretion the court. After today, citizens can be confident that Dianna Duran will no longer have supervisory control of public funds or the reporting process within the Secretary of State's Office. I am hopeful that this resolution will begin to rebuild the public trust and compel the new leadership to improve oversight and compliance in our campaign finance system and electoral process. My office will continue to prosecute individuals who violate the public trust."
 
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
 
What is expected to be a lengthy legal and political battle over a major federal climate-change initiative formally kicked with two dozen states filing a lawsuit against regulations aimed at cutting U.S. carbon emissions. The states sued in a Washington-based federal court challenging the initiative, which seeks to reduce carbon output from hundreds of power plants across the nation. CWAG Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota stated: "The rule is unprecedented and ill-conceived. It infringes on the state's authority to regulate its own electrical systems under the United States Constitution and federal law. North Dakota has been making great strides in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and increasing wind energy but the Clean Power Plan sets an unreasonable schedule and hinders the development of new clean coal technologies." CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana stated: "Once again, the EPA has overstepped its rule-making authority granted by Congress, this time seeking to impose an unworkable, technically unfounded, and legally invalid national energy policy on the states."
 
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada joined a suit on behalf of the state of Nevada challenging the federal government's greater sage-grouse land-use plan. In ten western states, including Nevada, the federal plan withdraws more than ten million acres of federal land from public use. In Nevada alone, mineral exploration and development is barred on nearly three million acres. Additionally, the plan may result in significant restrictions on livestock grazing, resource development and public access on over sixteen million acres of public land in Nevada. "The federal government's one-size-fits-all sage-grouse plan will greatly hinder Nevada's growth and success, and have an adverse impact on Nevada's economy, affecting ranchers, mining exploration, new energy source development, recreation and everyone who works in these industries," said General Laxalt.
 
CWAG Attorney General Craig W. Richards of Alaska announced that the State has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a rule that exempted the Tongass National Forest from the prohibitions of the so-called Roadless Rule. The Roadless Rule, adopted in the last days of the Clinton Administration, banned logging and road construction in roadless areas of all national forests. Later, the Bush administration decided to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule due to concern about the socioeconomic impacts the rule's prohibitions would inflict on the small communities of Southeast Alaska. A coalition of environmental and tribal groups challenged the exemption in federal court. The Ninth Circuit struck down the exemption, ruling that the Bush administration had not offered sufficient justification for changing course. The dissenting judges argued that the agency had offered good reasons for changing course and that the majority had improperly substituted its policy preferences for those of the agency.
 
DRUG NEWS
 
Colorado's attempt to create a bank to service its marijuana industry has suffered another setback by the federal government and could be facing an impossible dilemma. The Federal Reserve said in a court filing that it doesn't intend to accept a penny connected to the sale of pot because the drug remains illegal under federal law. The stance appears to mark a shift in the position of the federal government. Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department issued rules for how banks can accept pot money. "We're frustrated," said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination for Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. "We tried to do the most with the building blocks of instructions they sent us, set up the most rigorous solution. And we still are left with confusion." The filing came in a legal battle between the Federal Reserve and the would-be Fourth Corner Credit Union, which was set up last year to serve Colorado's $700 million-a-year marijuana industry.
 
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado announced that her office has reached the largest civil settlement in the U.S. against a store owner for selling spice. The settlement with Colorado retailer "O's Pipes & Tobacco" is one of four spice-related cases that the Attorney General filed between September 2013 and May 2014. With this settlement, the Colorado Department of Law has successfully resolved all four cases. "Our efforts are impacting the open sale of spice products in our state," said General Coffman. "But we will continue to be vigilant and ensure that store owners know they will face stiff penalties and the closure of their stores if they choose to sell dangerous spice products."
 
CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon filed a lawsuit against General Nutrition Corporation, GNC, for selling nutritional and dietary supplements containing the illegal ingredients picamilon and BMPEA. The lawsuit alleges that the company violated the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act by misrepresenting certain products as lawful dietary supplements when they are actually unapproved drugs that may not be lawfully sold in the United States as a dietary supplement.  The complaint also alleges that GNC sold products labeled as containing botanical acacia rigidula that had been spiked with unlabeled BMPEA. "It is scary to know that certain products sold by GNC contain an ingredient that is not even labeled-let alone approved in the United States," said General Rosenblum. "When Oregonians buy a dietary supplement, they deserve to know that the ingredients in the products are safe and comply with the law. There are 25 GNC stores in Oregon that sold thousands of these products over the span of a couple of years."
 
Mexico's Supreme Court will debate whether the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional. The Court will determine whether the prohibition of the consumption of marijuana - and its cultivation for non-commercial ends - violates the human right to the free development of one's personality. This landmark case could lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes if followed up with legislation. This debate in Mexico's Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: because it is being argued on human rights grounds, and because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced a $63,000 resolution of an investigation into alleged unfair debt collection practices and deceptive advertising by retailer Freedom Stores, Inc. The alleged violations included filing lawsuits against Washington military service members in Virginia without their knowledge and contacting commanding officers with details of a service member's debt. The Virginia company, which closed its only Washington store in August, sold furniture, electronics, jewelry and other goods primarily to military service members. Freedom Stores, also doing business as Freedom Furniture and Electronics, Military Credit Services and Freedom Acceptance Corporation, agreed to $25,000 in suspended civil penalties and to pay $38,000 in costs and fees to resolve allegations it violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Its Washington store was located in Lakewood, near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced three actions to stop deceptive advertising and labeling by e-cigarette liquid manufacturers. General Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Alchemy e-Lixirs, a California-based company, for making unsubstantiated health claims, for deceptive labelling, and for selling products as organic without being certified. He also required two other companies that labeled e-liquid as organic without being certified - California-based Jai Mundi, which produces Virgin Vapor brand e-liquid, and New Jersey-based Orb Vapor - to enter into "Assurance of Discontinuance" agreements filed in Thurston County Superior Court to stop their deceptive labelling. "Washington consumers have a right to expect product labels to be truthful," General Ferguson said. "I will not tolerate businesses making unsubstantiated claims about their products, and I will continue to work for more oversight to protect consumers, especially children, in this largely unregulated but booming industry."

Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

505-222-9175

505-660-5901 (cell)

505-222-9183 (fax)

CCoppin@cwagweb.org