Bob Ferguson’s strong record as a consumer protection and campaign finance watchdog earns him four more years as Attorney General.
ATTORNEY General Bob Ferguson has wielded the power of his office effectively and wisely, and, with a few exceptions, has managed well the state’s law firm. He easily deserves four more years.
The Attorney General is technically the state’s top law-enforcement official, but the office mostly acts as protector of the people’s interests in civil court. Ferguson, who won an acrimonious 2012 election after serving on the Metropolitan King County Council, has picked good targets for legal action.
The Democrat has been particularly impressive in his role enforcing campaign-finance violations. His office has been both active and fair, suing entities across the political spectrum, from the state trial lawyers to initiative king Tim Eyman, and has a whopper case pending against the national Grocery Manufacturers Association for hiding donors in its successful campaign against the 2013 GMO-labeling initiative.
Ferguson has also been effective in consumer protection, and pledges to do more such work if re-elected. He helped lead a multistate claim against Volkswagen for its “clean diesel” scam. Ferguson’s office announced an enticing multimillion claim against Comcast involving its service-protection plan on the eve of the primary election, although the timing of the announcement seemed overtly political.
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Generally, Ferguson has been a good advocate for Washington’s open-records and meetings laws and has picked up the torch from previous state attorneys general in pressing the federal government to clean up the Hanford nuclear reservation responsibly. He is also championing an assault-weapons ban, which is a politically tough but sound policy proposal.
Ferguson’s biggest misstep has been his office’s mishandling of key evidence in the Oso mudslide case. The stakes are high; it could be the largest tort claim against Washington in state history. Yet one of his attorneys knew landslide experts hired by the state were deleting emails and didn’t intervene — an apparent glaring violation of ethics rules.
Ferguson owned up to the mistake, put his top deputies in charge of getting to the bottom of the debacle and pledges to make the mistake part of training for new staffers. He should also review how his office views its clients — the state agencies or the people of the state. Sometimes their interests collide, and Ferguson must show citizens he has their interests — and not just the Olympia bureaucracy — in mind.
No Republican filed to run against Ferguson. In the November election, his opponent is Joshua Trumbull, a libertarian with a small law practice in Arlington. Trumbull is articulate about the potential for the AG’s office to do more on foreclosure protection.
But he is unqualified for the office and is not a credible challenger to Ferguson.