In an opinion piece today, the Wall Street Journal brought to light a previous unpublished letter from Wisconsin AG J.B. Van Hollen to Chuck Grassley. The letter was written in January as a response to comments Grassley made to all 50 state Attorney Generals urging them to put pressure on local financial institutions via state sanctioned punitive action. To quote the Journal, and the letter, Mr. Van Hollen wrote Sen. Grassley in reply:

“Rest assured we will evaluate on a case-by-case basis and make appropriate prosecutorial determinations…”

"However, I will not be initiating investigations through press releases, nor will I treat all corporate executive expenditures as presumptively wrongful. Wisconsin law certainly does not. Financial institutions (and other businesses) on the verge of insolvency are ill-advised to make unnecessary expenditures, whether to executives or otherwise. At the same time, contractual obligations are generally to be fulfilled, work should earn compensation, and there is no law in Wisconsin making a contract illegal simply because someone is well compensated. Absent specific information indicating a transaction is fraudulent as opposed to foolish, I will not use my office to threaten litigation in an attempt to micromanage Wisconsin's businesses. Corporate governance is generally a matter for shareholders, not public officeholders."

The Journal appropriately drew the distinction between Mr. Van Hollen’s thoughtful deference of our legal system, and the brazen political posturing of AG’s like Andrew Cuomo, praising Van Hollen for his respect for prosecutorial discretion and dubbing him the “Un Cuomo”.

It is refreshing to hear that someone elected to public office is dutifully upholding their oath to exercise the letter of the law. Too easily do elected officials bend to the whim of the masses, abandoning principles to feed on populist rhetoric and steal cheap political gains. It is my hope that a majority of the officers of our court system look, as Mr. Van Hollen does, with disdain at the bombastic political grandstanding that is all too common and Washington DC. If only more spoke out publicly against it.

Kudos to the Journal – Keep publishing these kinds of letters when they come up.

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