Opinion: Independent for AG fights for rule of law, not politics
For the first time since 1988, Michigan voters will have the chance to elect an independent candidate for a statewide office. My name is Chris Graveline and I am running as a political moderate for a position that should be non-partisan, Michigan attorney general. Unlike the major party candidates, I can be truly independent since I have not sought nor will I accept any issue-advocacy PAC money or endorsements during this campaign.
The attorney general is Michigan’s top lawyer and its chief law enforcement officer. It is a position that demands fairness and impartiality. Unfortunately, both major parties have targeted the position of state attorney general around the country as a means to advance their policy arguments through lawsuit.
For example, Attorney General Bill Schuette repeatedly sued the Obama administration challenging its implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Similarly, the current Democratic nominee, Dana Nessel, has stated that she intends to “sue the Trump administration, all day, every day.” The parties want to transform this public office into their own law firm. This practice needs to end. There is too much work to do on behalf of Michigan’s citizens to allow it to continue.
Before initiating or joining a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Michigan, the attorney general should consider certain principles enunciated by Frank J. Kelley: (1) will the suit establish sound legal precedent; (2) will the suit affect many people and is not just of a localized interest; and (3) is the AG office legally authorized to get involved by statute or state constitution.
These are sound principles upon which to ground legal action. Instead of using the resources of the office to engage in political lawsuits, I would focus on enhanced consumer protection efforts, especially in the areas of health and auto insurance rates, and on curbing violent crime, opioid trafficking, and identity theft.
Normally, independent candidates have a difficult time because they lack the experience of and run further to the political extremes than the major party candidates. I am an exception to this rule. From 2013 – May 2018, I served as the chief, Violent and Organized Crime Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan. I assisted in concentrating our office’s efforts to reduce homicides and non-fatal shootings in Detroit.
By working collaboratively with our local and state partners, we dropped these crimes by over 30 percent. Just last year, Detroit saw the lowest numbers of homicides in 50 years. We accomplished this work not by mass incarceration, but rather, by doing our homework on the most violent persons in the neighborhoods and creatively utilizing the RICO statute against criminal street gangs.
Prior to my work as a federal prosecutor here in Detroit, I was a human rights prosecutor for the Department of Justice where I was part of a team who prosecuted the son of the Liberian dictator for torturing individuals to keep the regime in power. This experience built off of my involvement in prosecuting the soldiers responsible for the prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq war. Finally, I have experience as a state prosecutor having served at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
All of these experiences are highly relevant to the job of Michigan attorney general. We, as a state, are currently facing complex and difficult situations including the Flint water litigation and the investigations concerning Michigan State University and the Catholic Church.
I am asking the voters to compare my experience of handling high profile and politically sensitive investigations in an even-handed manner with my opponents’ records and ask who is best situated to lead this important office.
Chris Graveline is running as an independent for attorney general of Michigan.