A result is that the routine lobbying and deal-making occur largely out of view. But the extent of the cause and effect is laid bare in The Times’s review of more than 6,000 emails obtained through open records laws in more than two dozen states, interviews with dozens of participants in cases and attendance at several conferences where corporate representatives had easy access to attorneys general.
Often, the corporate representative is a former colleague. Four months after leaving office as chief deputy attorney general in Washington State, Brian T. Moran wrote to his replacement on behalf of a client, T-Mobile, which was pressing federal officials to prevent competitors from grabbing too much of the available wireless spectrum.
Private lawyers also have written drafts of legal filings that attorneys general have used almost verbatim. In some cases, they have become an adjunct to the office by providing much of the legal work, including bearing the cost of litigation, in exchange for up to 20 percent of any settlement.
Money gathered through events like the one in February 2013 at the Loews hotel is flooding the political campaigns of attorneys general and flowing to party organizations that can take unlimited corporate contributions and then funnel money to individual candidates. The Republican Attorneys General Association alone has pulled in $11.7 million since January.
It is a self-perpetuating network that includes a group of former attorneys general called SAGE, or the Society of Attorneys General Emeritus, most of whom are now on retainer to corporate clients.
The increased focus on state attorneys general by corporate interests has a simple explanation: to guard against legal exposure, potentially in the billions of dollars, for corporations that become targets of the state investigations.
It can be traced back two decades, when more than 40 state attorneys general joined to challenge the tobacco industry, an inquiry that resulted in a historic $206 billion settlement.