Republican attorneys general are trouncing their Democratic counterparts in 2017's fundraising wars amid liberals' failure to capitalize on resistance to President Trump.
The Republican Attorneys General Association raised $7.4 million through the first half of 2017, which the group said is a record-high number for the organization that formed in 1999. During the same period in 2015 and 2013, the association raked in $5.1 million and $4.2 million, respectively, as it headed into major election cycles.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association, meanwhile, raised about $3.1 million between January and June and reportedly hired full-time finance staffing for the first time in 2017.
Scott Will, the executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said he attributes the success of the GOP attorneys general's fundraising arm to a myriad of reasons.
"Because our AGs create or help to create a predictable business climate and are focused on upholding the rule of law, that has been much more the reason for the growth versus who is in the White House, for example," Will said. "I think it's clear that during the Obama years many of his top priorities were defeated mainly, if not entirely, through the work of the Republican AGs. And there's still a lot more work to be done in that area, and they're the ones taking the lead on that and that has a tremendous impact on the economy, the jobs climate, etc."
Will said he thinks many of the Republican group's supporters and donors believe they have gotten more results from attorneys general than from state or federal lawmakers. The battle lines in the years to come will include honing in on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and working with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma's former attorney general, to roll back regulations established by the Obama administration.
Republicans control 29 state attorneys general seats, the most the GOP has ever held at any one time, but they do not appear to be resting on their laurels. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia will hold attorneys general elections before 2018 ends, which the association labeled "our most challenging election cycle to date" in a June strategy memo.
The GOP is aiming to flip a pair of Midwestern states in 2018 where Trump outperformed expectations in 2016: Iowa and Minnesota. Republicans also are heavily invested in snatching the Virginia attorney general seat this year. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Adams, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will square off against the Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring there.
Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist and veteran of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said the cash raised by Republicans will prove helpful, but "there is only so much you can do to overcome" the "electoral winds favor[ing] the Democrats."
O'Connell noted that both Democrats and Republicans recognize that the upcoming attorneys general elections will be of critical importance for redistricting and states' rights issues.
But the Democrats' strategy for thwarting the GOP's effort to paint all the attorneys general seats red focuses on making the coming elections all about Trump.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association's website bills its AGs as "the first line of defense against the new administration" and showcases Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson and Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey on its homepage.
"I've always felt my work was important, but it's reinforced with the new administration and the importance of attorneys general around the country is magnified because really as I've said before, we're essentially the first line of defense against federal overreach, unconstitutional actions by the federal government," Ferguson says in one video. "It's your attorney general who I think is really the most consequential office in the country if you're worried about the Trump administration and what they might be doing in terms of civil rights, immigration, you pick the issue, the environment, that's our job description."
A video of Healey similarly shows her focusing on the work Democrats have ahead of them in the next four years.
"I will tell you that as an attorney general, I'm committed to enforcing the law," Healey says. "If the president and his administration aren't going to enforce laws that protect consumers or workers or the environment or civil rights, we're going to be there to enforce those laws, to do what is right and to make sure that people in our states and across this country are protected."
While incumbent Democratic attorneys general and candidates look eager to lock horns with their Republican opponents, the party appears to be a step behind. The Democratic Attorneys General Association's website lacks information under its "Resources & Contacts" and "News & Events" portions of its website, which remain branded as "coming soon."