Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller stops at UI Law School, talks bipartisanship


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Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller concedes the bipartisan relationships he used to foster in Des Moines are thinning.

However, on the pressing political and legal issues of the country, those problems have not stopped his office and countless other attorneys general from acting.

“The AGs in this country are the most bipartisan of any elected officials; we do a lot of cases and projects together like the bank-mortgage settlement last year, when we had 49 attorney generals and the federal government working together,” Miller told a small gathering of University of Iowa College of Law students. “As you look at Washington, think of how many times you see the Senate, maybe 98 Senators, work in tandem with the administration. That’s what we did.”

Miller, members of his staff, and former Maine Attorney General James Tierney spoke to UI law students on Tuesday about the role and power of state attorney generals.

“Some of [the bipartisanship] is because this unique job of an attorney general as Tom [Miller] pointed out,” said Tierney, now the director of National State Attorney General Program at Columbia Law School. “You have this situation of attorneys general Republican and Democrat working together, and the reason is the issues are just too important to let all this other stuff to get in the way.”

The group highlighted numerous cases in which as many as 49 states banded together in lawsuits. Those include actions against the tobacco industry settled in 1998, an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft settled in 2002, and a $25 billion settlement against America’s five largest mortgage companies last year.

“The issues that were arising issues with airlines and car rentals these things sort of all national in scope,” said Tam Ormiston, Miller’s chief policy deputy. “We began addressing rather than individually, collectively, understanding we were out-gunned individually. That continues to be the case, but by cooperating, by finding the common ground Tom is so good at, we were able to do things we couldn’t otherwise do.”

Tierney said multistate cases run counter to current trends from the actions of the current administration in power. Tierney cited a rise of conservative multistate action this year, including 13 state attorneys general signing a letter against the Affordable Care Act, citing concerns over abortions.

One UI law student was excited about the opportunity to see the application of the theories she had learned in class.

“This is an opportunity to see the practical experience of using the law, and in law school, you don’t always get that opportunity,” first-year law student Ashley Brosius said.

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