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Legendary Former AGs Bemoan the State of Bipartisanship

In this week’s episode, Lori and fellow State AG Group team member Mira Baylson are in conversation with former AGs Frankie Sue Del Papa of Nevada and Betty Montgomery of Ohio, both phenomenal leaders with distinguished track records of achievement in their states. They talk about the overall rise in the number of multi-states and provide their perspectives on the era-defining Master Tobacco settlement of 1998. They bemoan the state of bipartisanship and campaign advertising and ponder the impact of gender on leadership.

PRODUCED IN COLLABORATION WITH:

Chris Allen, Member, Executive Producer

Ryan Bottegal, Associate

Suzette Bradbury, Director of Practice Group Marketing (State AG Group)

Elisabeth Hill Hodish, Policy Analyst

Legal Internet Solutions Incorporated

Transcript

Lori:

Welcome back, everyone, and thank you for joining us for this week’s episode of the AG podcast. In last week’s episode, we talked about the New Mexico open seat race with our partner, Chris Allen. I thought it was a great episode. We heard about the highly competitive Democratic primary, and the potential that even in a state as blue as New Mexico, that the Republican candidate could actually have a shot there. We also spent a lot of time talking with Chris about the practice, not just in New Mexico, but elsewhere and all over the country of AGs hiring outside counsel and what that means for business.

Today, we have a great episode planned and we’re thrilled. I’m here with my law partner, Mira Baylson. Mira is based in our Philadelphia office, and we have been talking about this episode for quite a while, and we’re very excited because we have two special guests here. We have Betty Montgomery, the former Ohio Attorney General, and Frankie Sue Del Papa, the former Attorney General from my home state, the great state of Nevada. Welcome, welcome, welcome. There’s a lot I want to cover on this, but we obviously don’t want to stay here on this podcast for 24 hours. There’s a lot I could talk about. We’re definitely going to cover some important issues today, and I’m sure hear some great stories because these two women are trailblazers. I’m almost speechless, just real powerful, smart, forward thinking, and probably most importantly, reasonable women who have seen a lot, done a lot, accomplished a lot, and still maintain a presence in the AG community.

And it’s not just a personal pleasure to always see them and to say hello and to give them a big hug, but just to hear their perspective on things, because Betty, Frankie Sue, you’ve probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know because you’re really tremendous women. So thank you again for joining us. I’d love to cover today the state of play at some of the elections that we have, just talk about the political trends that you’re seeing out there and maybe a look back and a look forward and what your thoughts are on what we’re seeing today, and frankly, hear about your experience as AGs and whether that might have been different given the time in which you both served. And I know that you both served for eight years together. Frankie Sue, you served for 12, but I know that for eight of those, you had the privilege of serving with Betty Montgomery.

Frankie Sue:

Let me just set the bar. Betty Montgomery comes from Ohio. In all of our dealings, Betty was always the big state of Ohio, Republican. I was a small state of Nevada, Democrat. But she and I partnered together on so many things. But I can tell you that she is one of my best friends ever to come out of the AG world and we did so many things together. And one example, of course, is the tobacco settlement. And Betty, the big state of Ohio, she took care of the small states. Whatever resource she had, she shared. In fact, she sent her PR person out to Nevada one time to help shore up my situation, because small states didn’t have those kind of resources.

Betty Montgomery:

What’s happening now is that oftentimes, not that it didn’t always exist, because there are always people who run for office because they want to be somebody bigger, better, more powerful, richer, whatever, but there was a more concerted bipartisan sense of service. And now, you see creeping in so much money, so much influence by outside folks. Not that they didn’t exist before, but it overshadows a certain bipartisan nature that we enjoyed, which we don’t see as much now.

Mira Baylson:

Yeah. That’s so funny that you mention it, because with the reference to the multi-state tobacco settlement, one of the things I was thinking about was one of the only spaces we see bipartisanship nowadays, at least from my perspective, is in the multi-states. And we’re all citizens, we’re all lawyers, we can all decry the lack of bipartisan cooperation, but that sure hasn’t stopped the multi-states from happening. And I’m just curious, when both of you were attorneys general and it was the time of the tobacco multi-state, how active were your offices in multi-state around the nation? Was that as prevalent as it is now? Or were you at the beginning of what I’ll call that engine?

Betty Montgomery:

We used to be joyful if we would get 10 states on a multi-state. That was a huge multi-state. I hired somebody just to handle coordinating multi-states so that we would get more states involved. Post-tobacco, I think what happened was the states began to see the advantage of a collective in ways they didn’t see before. And before the influence of RAGA and DAGA, Republican AGs and Democrat AGs, you still had bipartisanship and you still had… We saw a growth of multi-states. But then, you had RAGA and DAGA and then you had the trial attorneys, the hiring of special counsel, which you talked about in your last podcast. All of that started to change the dynamics, don’t you think, Frankie Sue?

Frankie Sue:

Well, I think it was a natural flow from that. It’s interesting though, Betty, even before the tobacco settlement… By way of example, I always compared Nevada’s resources to New Mexico. And Tom Udall and I served together the first eight years that I served and I had a zero budget for outside counsel. Tom’s budget was $800,000. And of course, a huge Medicaid nursing home case, given the Boren Amendment, some attorney out of DC was going state by state, very sophisticated case. And the head of my health division came and said, “We can’t defend. We don’t have the expertise.” And I had to go to the legislature and get a special appropriation for even outside counsel that Tom already had built into his budget. Then we did have the tobacco settlement. And I would say that one of the lessons of the tobacco settlement though, if you recall, is one of the reasons the states had to come together for what we call the critical mass is, remember, they shut down Medicare in Washington state, I think it was, because the tobacco attorneys had so many more resources. We couldn’t have done that without the critical mass of the states coming together. And I think that was the case on a lot of these cases, particularly if you come from a small state with not a lot of resources. I was back at the dinosaur age to begin with, but I brought in the first antitrust attorney. Our office didn’t even have an antitrust attorney. So I think it was a natural progression.

Betty Montgomery:

It’s interesting because to talk about how bipartisan we were, Ohio was a tobacco state. Our Southern Ohio did a lot of tobacco. And the Republican states were mostly tobacco states and the Democrat states were not necessarily that. The Democrats were supported by the trial attorneys. The Republicans were supported by tobacco, particularly the Southern states, or tobacco interests. So you had that politics going on. At the same time, we had the public health and the public interest engaged, and I had, about a month or so into my first year, said I was not going to file because I was afraid it was going to knock me off all of the other missions that I had. And I said to the public and to the press, “Look, they can’t settle the case without Ohio. We’re too big.” At which point Democrat Mike Moore from Mississippi calls me, and we work together, and he says, “Betty, would you mind not saying that again? It makes it very difficult to put together enough states when you say that. This is a Democrat talking to me. And I looked at him, I said, “Mike, you’re right. I’m talking to my people in Ohio, but there’s a larger issue at hand.” So I didn’t say that again. And ultimately within months, it joined the multi-state in the tobacco lawsuit. And then, as Frankie Sue said, as it came to the settlement, what we did was negotiate. I said, “If you want me to join, I want to be on the Executive Committee.” They give you extra money in the multi-state to be on the Executive Committee, the handful of states that helped direct the multi-state. And so we had $34 billion coming into Ohio, and that included a huge amount of money coming just because we were on the Executive. And I said, look, it’s kind of like playing poker. In Rhode Island and New Hampshire, they were getting $100,000 out of this. They weren’t getting anything significant. So I just said, look, whatever money you gave us for the Executive, let’s throw it in the pot and let them enjoy. We want them to be able to help on anti-tobacco stuff. But it wouldn’t have happened if Mike Moore, a Democrat, hadn’t spent as much time figuring out how to deal with Republicans who were tobacco states.

Lori:

I have a question just about the elections in general. I find it interesting that we’re talking with both of you today and Ohio and Nevada have both been very important states in every election that I can recall. I would like your perspective, but growing up in Nevada, it seems to have shifted a little bit on the politics. It tends to just move back and forth a little bit. And I think Ohio over the years has changed and become more of a red state. And so I’m just curious how you each have viewed your own states as far as the political trend and the way things have gone over the years and the way you think things will go this year, especially in Nevada, Frankie Sue.

Frankie Sue:

Well, Lori, in my four statewide campaigns, at one time or another, I have carried every county in the state of Nevada except Elko. And of course, I say there’s something wrong with the water in Elko. I couldn’t carry that county. But I don’t know that’s true today, that if I were running today….. Nevada today is one third Democrat, one third Republican, and one third nonpartisan. And I think that’s the course of the country. You see a lot of people trying to move away from partisan politics, because they’re just throwing up their hands and they’re moving to the nonpartisan. I think if I were running today, I would be all over, trying to find and persuade every nonpartisan I could, because I just think that’s the way it’s going in our state. We, of course, have a really important Senate seat up this year, a former attorney general that you know well, and are good friends with: Catherine Cortez Masto, and she’s done a terrific job. She deserves to be reelected. What they’re saying about her and throwing at her is ridiculous. And of course, after I left Atlanta the other day, I was in Alabama and then ultimately flew home from Nashville, I couldn’t believe the television commercials in Alabama. Every one of those commercials had guns, guns, and more guns in them. And then I turn on now, Lori, you’d be shocked, Dean Heller’s got a commercial with his kids. Everybody’s shooting guns. And particularly in light of what we’ve gone through recently in this country, it’s amazing to me that that’s still even happening. But to answer your question, I think that things have shifted. We’ve got candidates here who are still contesting President Biden’s election for God’s sakes. I think we’re all going to have to figure out how we can get out of this mess. And to get out of it, it’s going to take more people of both parties with courage to say, “Hey, this is unacceptable.”

Betty Montgomery:

I was asked to run for the state central committee by our governor, John Kasick, and the far right did not think that I was pro-gun enough, pro-life enough, pro-conservative enough in my district. My district was a Senate district. Unheard of, they did 17 great big postcards against me over the course of the election. They called me a moderate and that was devastating, supposedly. But the best thing is they used my good picture and I only have one. So every election cycle, I have to go through this trial by fire, but that’s what elections are about. We were in a women’s AG dinner when they announced that I had won and both Republicans and Democrats were so sweet, they gave me a cheer.

Lori:

Well, Betty, I’ll tell you, I’ve been to Ohio with you and I’ve been in Nevada with Frankie Sue, and I’d say that you’re both legends. And people come up everywhere we are and they recognize you and talk to you and clearly admire you in the work that both of you have done. That comes through loud and clear. That’s something you should both be very proud of. My experience with women AGs has been that they’re tough, they’re accessible, and in some ways tougher than some of the men that I’ve experienced. I would say it’s a woman thing. We wake up every day and fight different battles. But I think that there’s some great women AGs now and there’s been some great women AGs, including my good friend, Catherine Cortez Masto. And obviously, our Vice President was the California Attorney General. The list goes on and on. There are judges and lots of people who have done great things for the women AG group, or under that umbrella of being women AGs. But you say that the women serve their electorate. And then I hear Frankie Sue say that there’s commercials in Alabama and in Nevada with guns and why would somebody do that? And I guess, this is serving the electorate, I suppose, right or wrong, and so it goes back to Mira’s original point about these multi-states on consumer protection issues. That seems to just go straight across party lines. I think all AGs care about consumer protection. I want to raise something that I think is fascinating. Times just came out with the most influential people of 2022. And on that list, Tish James, the New York Attorney General, is included in that 100, and so is Lynn Fitch, the Mississippi Attorney General. And I think first of all, regardless of party and regardless of what they stand for and what they’re fighting for, I think they’re both very smart, assertive, driven women, and I like them both, but obviously very different. And I keep thinking to myself, this should be a reason for celebration. You’ve got two women representing states, representing the people, but yet, could we all have a celebratory party for them and get everybody in the same room? Or is that just a sign of the times? It’s a lost opportunity and it’s not because of either of them, but I would love your input on that and Mira as well.

Betty Montgomery:

I want to jump in there and just say NAAG used to be, there was a meeting, a convening room, there was a place where you could meet and talk to each other. We used to, at the end of elections, Frankie Sue, you recall, once or twice at the end of an election cycle, we would bring in our commercials and laugh at them, Republicans and Democrat, laugh at the commercials or what had been run against us. We couldn’t possibly do that now. NAAG has not afforded that kind of free space on the bingo card. But CWAG, now AGA, has. Karen White has done a remarkable job of pulling up the partisan shade and creating a safe space where people can talk to each other. I don’t see it happening at NAAG. It may happen in RAGA, DAGA. But to have it collectively done by AGs, I think the only place you see that it would possibly happen right now is with AGA. What do you think, Frankie Sue.

Frankie Sue:

I don’t think there’s enough time in this podcast to talk about the history of this, because I think that one of the worst things to happen to the AG world is RAGA and DAGA, because it politicized an office that shouldn’t be politicized. Because to me, law enforcement should never, ever be politicized. And unfortunately, that’s what’s happened. I think that’s probably the reason why we are in part where we are. The other reason, of course, is the country has changed, and I think everybody’s asking, how do we get out of and away from the divisiveness that we are experiencing? Because in the end, we’re all Americans and you really want what’s best for our country. And I think the divisiveness is not good for the country. One of the things we haven’t talked about is the recent election, for instance, in Idaho, where a sitting attorney general who had done a tremendous job is taken out in a primary by his own party and called all kinds of things, things that weren’t true. Fellow AGs assisted in taking him out. To your point, Lori, I think we should celebrate. Anytime you’ve got a Republican and a Democrat in the same forum, that’s a good thing. And again, coming back to where we started, Betty and I have been really good friends from ever since the time she got there. And frankly, one of the reasons I love going to these meetings, for me, it’s like a family reunion. You love to go to see these people. And think of who we’ve lost even in the last year, to lose a Grant Woods, to lose a Wayne Stenehjem. Wayne Stenehjem was like Betty, in the sense that he was one of the Republicans that you could always count on to listen. He didn’t really care about party politics per se.

Mira Baylson:

Frankie Sue, to your point, well, at least we’ve seen that isn’t necessarily the case everywhere in the nation. And we just watched Georgia’s primary. We saw Chris Carr, who’s done a tremendous job as an Attorney General and really stuck to the law and followed it as is his job and served the people of Georgia. And as a result, I think everyone is very pleased to see that he will be going forward as the Republican nominee. I’m sure everyone on this podcast is, at least. But one of the things that you mentioned, both of you, when you were sort of responding to Lori’s point, and you reference this a little bit is the role of a leader. And I think a lot about having a leader who is a woman. I’m very lucky to be in the State Attorney General practice that Lori put together with Bernie. Lori is a definite leader in this world. And I think that having a woman as a leader provides a different set of skills. Not better, not worse, just provides a… It’s almost like an expanded toolbox. You’ve got all the smarts, you’ve got all the aggressiveness, but you’ve also got emotional intelligence that is often missing in my experience from leaders who are men, particularly in large offices. And so I’m thinking about one of the ways to bridge this gap, to get Tish James and Lynn Fitch in the same room, and I feel like it’s almost necessary that it’s going to have to come from women to make these types of bridges because of the emotional intelligence that’s required.

Lori:

Back to Lynn Fitch and Tish James, if you could get them in a room without cameras around, I think that there’s a lot to celebrate as two very influential women, regardless of what they believe. I would end this podcast on a note to say, Frankie Sue, Betty, this is a challenge I’d like you guys to take on, please. I would expect if anyone can do it, it would be the both of you. It’s really a lesson in how AGs should act toward one another, because I do believe what they have in common is more important than the issues that separate them. I think companies would be better served if AGs could work together and our clients would be better served, and I think that would go a long way to perhaps healing the nation.

Frankie Sue:

Well, Lori, that’s really well said. And I think that’s one of the reasons why Colorado AG Phil Weiser has taken the lead on what he’s calling the Ginsburg/Scalia Initiative, where he is trying to bridge the gap, if you will. And I do think that, as I said earlier, it’s incumbent on every one of us to do what we can individually and collectively to see what we can do to bridge this divide.

Lori:

I completely agree. I think we’re out of time, but I want to say thank you. Thank you so much, both of you, Betty, Frankie Sue for joining us today. It’s a tremendous honor for me. I feel like I grew up in this world with both of you and you’re both very special and very successful. I lose words. There’s so many words I could use. But really, two women that I really look up to and admire and respect, so it’s such an honor and privilege to have you both with us today. Mira, thank you so much for joining us.

Mira Baylson:

Thank you, Lori.

Lori:

Your insight is always invaluable.

Betty Montgomery:

Thank you.

Frankie Sue:

Thank you all.

Lori:

And on our next episode, the DC primary is June 21st, we’ll be discussing the DC candidates. And there’s a lot going on in DC. There’s been some drama there. So please join us for that podcast and we look forward to talking with you then. You have been listening to State AG Pulse, brought to you by Cozen O’Connor State AG Group. Research for this podcast was provided by our associates, Ryan Bottegal, Hannah Cornett, Gianna Puccinelli, and Keturah Taylor, as well as our policy analyst, Elizabeth Hill Hodish. If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please leave us a five star rating and review. That will help our visibility and will allow other listeners to learn about the podcast. And of course, please tune in again next week.

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