On Thursday September 13, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke to students, faculty, and the public at William and Mary’s Law school. He covered a broad range of topics from healthcare to eminent domain, but all in the context of Federalism. The lecture he presented was formally titled: “Balancing Power: Federalism, the State, and Individual Rights”.
Cuccinelli was elected Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2010, alongside Governor Bob McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling. Before that, he served in the Virginia State Senate from August 2002 to January 2010. Cuccinelli holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia, additionally he earned a Law Degree and a Master’s Degree in International Commerce and Policy, both from George Mason University. As Virginia’s Attorney General, he has gained a reputation for strong opinions on often-controversial issues from climate-change to abortion rights.
Cuccinelli built the foundation for his lecture by describing the role of the Attorney General.
“You’d think the Attorney General was the top-cop in Virginia. That is not accurate,” said Cuccinelli. “One way to look at this role is as to push back on the Federal government when it oversteps its boundaries.”
The majority of his lecture focused on Federalism in the context of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”. He went on to say that his suit against the federal government was “far more about liberty than it was healthcare.”
Cuccinelli’s lawsuit was in defense of the Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act, which was signed into law by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010 and guarantees the rights of Virginian’s from having to purchase health insurance. This, as Cuccinelli explained, means he argued in defense of Virginia law, as opposed to simply in opposition of federal law.
He also spoke about the effects of the courts ruling when it comes to Medicaid, healthcare funding for certain people with limited resources. In a seven to two decision, the Supreme Court ruled against the Affordable Care Act’s efforts to force Medicaid expansion on states with the threat of withholding funds. Cuccinelli believes that this ruling allowed for “meaningful debate” on the issue to take place within state legislatures.
While healthcare legislation was a major part of his lecture, he also chided the Federal government for overreaching when it came to Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Communications Commission regulations. Specifically, he attacked the EPA’s decision to regulate water as a pollutant in Fairfax County in order to save a habitat for worms.
Though these topics can spark heated debate, student reaction was mostly positive.
“I wanted to listen to him in order to know better what’s at stake in Virginia,” said Victor Ganier, an French exchange student at the College. Ganier called Cuccinelli’s lecture “relevant” and “perfectly understandable in the American context.”
“It’s great that the Law School has such great speakers lined up,” said Danny Yates (’12), a current William and Mary law student.
The same evening he also addressed a group of College Republicans and interested guests. Though many of the topics overlapped, he focused more on politics, particularly grassroots organization, at the club’s event.
“I knocked on a lot, a lot, of doors,” said the Attorney General about his many campaigns. “These races are not rocket science. They are hard work.”
While Cuccinelli mentioned his own campaign for Governor in 2013, he stressed party-wide, multi-level organizational opportunities.
“It’s not my job to protect the statutes I like, but the statutes of Virginia,” said Cuccinelli when asked about his job. He elaborated, stating that he viewed his role as protecting citizens from all forms of government, which is why he supports initiatives to reform aspects of the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to the mentally disabled.
In this same grain, he informed the College Republicans of a ballot amendment that he helped implement that would limit government use of eminent domain in the Commonwealth.
“Government is a bully and it picks on the poor,” said Cuccinelli.