New Attorney General Spotlight: Wisconsin AG-elect Josh Kaul

This blog post is the first installment in a series of posts highlighting newly elected Attorneys General, and commenting on how their priorities may differ from their predecessors’. Click here to read the full series.

Wisconsin’s new Attorney General, Democrat Josh Kaul, won a narrow victory over the incumbent Republican, Brad Schimel, by about 20,000 votes.  Before his election Kaul was an associate at Jenner & Block, a federal prosecutor in Baltimore, and a voting rights attorney in Wisconsin.  He ran on a platform of ending gerrymandering and improving voting rights; fighting the opioid epidemic; protecting against consumer fraud and pollution; reducing the state’s backlog of untested rape kits; implementing gun control measures; and legalizing medical marijuana.

Kaul will differ from his Republican predecessor in a number of notable respects.  For example, Kaul opposed his predecessor’s participation in a lawsuit filed by 20 Republican attorneys general challenging the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality.  He called the lawsuit “legally weak,” and categorized its potential consequences as “devastating.”  You can therefore expect Kaul to pull Wisconsin out of the suit. Kaul also criticized Schimel for not joining other state attorneys general in suing opioid manufactures.  A suit from Wisconsin against those manufacturers thus seems likely to happen in the near future.  Next, Kaul’s criticism of his opponent’s failure to protect against consumer fraud and pollution suggests stronger enforcement in those areas.  And finally, Kaul’s support for medical marijuana, along with Wisconsin’s new Democratic governor’s support for the same, bodes well for that industry’s prospects in the Badger State.

***Update: Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state legislature has passed a bill in its lame-duck session that would, if signed by outgoing Governor Scott Walker, shift power from the executive to the legislature to determine whether the state withdraws from a lawsuit.  Critics say that the bill is “is aimed at ensuring that Wisconsin remains part of a multistate Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act.”  Wisconsin thus may not be withdrawing from the ACA suit after all. Whether the Legislature’s action will stand will likely turn on Wisconsin law regarding the source of the AG’s authority.

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