Roy vs. Pat

Kirk Ross opines this week that Governor McPope could be concerned that Attorney General Roy Cooper may not defend North Carolina's new Voter Suppression Act (VSA) with sufficient zeal. The original story is at WRAL.

Cooper responded by noting that his personal opinions have no bearing on him carrying out his legal obligations as attorney general. “It’s the duty of this office to defend state laws in court whether or not I agree with them, and we have an excellent track record,” Cooper said in a statement. “My ultimate duty is to the people of North Carolina, and I’m going to tell them what I think about laws that have an impact on their lives, and that includes trying to stop bad laws and advocating for good ones.”

Roy Cooper has a moral dilemma. If he tries to defend the Voter Suppression Act, he'll be violating his commitment to the people of North Carolina. If he doesn't try to defend it, he'll be shirking one of the formal requirements of his position as Attorney General.

One of the Attorney General's duties, from the statutes,

To intervene, when he deems it to be advisable in the public interest,
in proceedings before any courts, regulatory officers, agencies and
bodies, both State and federal, in a representative capacity for and on
behalf of the using and consuming public of this State. He shall also
have the authority to institute and originate proceedings before such
courts, officers, agencies or bodies and shall have authority to appear
before agencies on behalf of the State and its agencies and citizens in
all matters affecting the public interest.

That last sentence is a killer ... especially when appearing on behalf of the State is tantamount to appearing against the citizens. In this case, it is clearly not possible for Mr. Cooper to do both.

The source of all this angst, of course, is Cooper's recent publicity stunt. Through a petition last week, Cooper drummed up thousands of signatures on a petition for McCrory to veto the VSA. No serious person had any illusions that the petition would be effective, but that wasn't its purpose. Its purpose was to establish Cooper as a populist champion, warming the waters for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign.

As Kirk Ross notes, this is the opening act ("round" would have been a more appropriate term) in the coming fight between Cooper and McCrory. And it is an object lesson in what happens when elected officials put politics above principle. Both men are approaching this constitutional issue through the lens of multimillion dollar statewide elections, in which fundraising matters more than anything else.

I weighed in on this issue last week. Nothing that has happened in the interim has changed my view. Roy Cooper should not only refuse to defend the Voter Suppression Act, he should fight to have it overturned.