Post Magazine: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

At 42, Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli stands as one of the most high-profile, active attorneys general in the state's history.
Ken Cuccinelli
Friday, July 30, 2010; 3:00 PM

"Just who is Ken Cuccinelli?" asked a Washington Post Magazine cover story, which looked at the Virginia attorney general's rise and rationale.

Cuccinelli was online Friday, July 30 to take questions and comments. The transcript is below.


Ken Cuccinelli: Hello my name is Ken Cuccinelli, Attorney General of Virginia, and I'm happy all of you could join me for this live chat. I look forward to taking your questions. Let's get started.


Arlington, Virginia: Ken, I grew up in Midlothian, graduated from U-VA with an electrical engineering degree, and have lived in Arlington these past 13 years. Thank you for your service to Virginia. How are the changing social-economic factors and values unique to different parts of the state impacting how you execute your job responsibilities?

Ken Cuccinelli: That's an interesting question. I wouldn't say we change anything we do, but there are definitely different interests in what we are doing in the OAG depending on where in Virginia you are. For example, public-private partnerships in transportation are a lot more important in NOVA, while the oil and gas board's handling of coal bed methane is of great interest in SW Va.


Alexandria, VA: I hope you will rethink spending Virginia tax dollars on fighting the new health insurance laws. Obama promised he would enact such legislation; we elected him to do it; he did it. So--get over it!!!

Ken Cuccinelli: What he may have promised is not what our office addresses. The first thing in my oath is to uphold and protect the U.S. Constitution. I am also sworn to protect Virginia's laws. We are doing both in the healthcare case.

There was a constitutional way to go about healthcare legislation, unfortunately, those in Washington wouldn't listen to constitutional concerns.


Dulles, VA: How confident are you that your health care lawsuit will receive a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court?

Ken Cuccinelli: When the dust all clears, I think we have a better than even chance of prevailing. However, it's going to be a long road, but that's okay, perseverance isn't lacking here...


Centreville Virginia: Ken, How do we encourage people, not force, as the recent legislation does, to buy health insurance for themselves? I am in total agreement with your lawsuit, but wonder how the number of uninsured can be reduced. Would tax incentives or some type of consequence work?

Ken Cuccinelli: Another great question. There are a lot of things we can do, though no silver bullets. Certainly we need to be backing government out of its dominant role in the healthcare sector. That mostly has to happen at the federal level. At the state level, we can let people buy health insurance across state lines to increase choice and competition, both b/n states and b/n insurance companies.


Arlington, VA: How would you say the culture and politics of Northern Virginia has changed since you grew up here?

Ken Cuccinelli: A couple of points here: 1) we've become much more diverse with the influx of people from all over the world. 2) we've also gotten bigger (more people), which is great insofar as our local economy has grown, unfortunately a big chunk of that growth has been driven by a massively growing federal government... and that's not good.


Chesterfield, VA: Mr. Cucinelli,

Thank you for joining today's chat. Although I completely disagree with your politics, I can certainly understand your defense of state and individual rights and freedoms against the expanding powers of the Federal government. I view many of your positions as principled despite disagreeing with them. However, your attack against anti-discrimination policies that include sexual minorities at public universities struck me as bigoted & mean, with absolutely no tangible benefit to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Isn't this the kind of micro-managing mandate from above that you complain about when it comes from the Federal government? Could you explain your motivations and the benefit you thought this action would bring Virginia's citizens?

-A Gay Virginian

Ken Cuccinelli: The answer wasn't motivated on 'benefits' it was dictated by the law as it exists today. The AG doesn't have the authority to DECIDE what the law is, i.e., make the law. 5 AGs before me, 3 Dems and 2 Repubs came to the same legal conclusion that I did regarding what the law is. Put simply, no one in state government can create new specially protected classes except the General Assembly with the concurrence of the Governor.


Waynesboro,VA: We are getting down to the wire, time wise, for Judge Hudson's ruling and, yes, I am nervous. Do you have a sense as to when we may get his decision regarding the Oral Arguments?

Ken Cuccinelli: Probably in the next week.


Fairfax VA: You are against abortion.

You also have opposed capital punishment.

Are there any situations in which you approve either?

Ken Cuccinelli: 1) to save the life of the mother.

2) actually, i think capital punishment is constitutional and an appropriate part of a criminal justice system. however, i am very cautious in my support for the death penalty, and i have frequently resisted significant expansions of the death penalty.


Clarendon, Virginia: How well do you think our two U.S. senators represent the interests of the people of Virginia?

Ken Cuccinelli: well, i assume they're both trying hard to represent virginians well, but i have found their lockstep approach to supporting an agenda at odds with virginia to be a concern. for example, while not 100%, their mutual support for laws that are contrary to virginia's strong right to work history are a gradual threat virginia's economy.

i'll start capitalizing again now...


Richmond, Va: You're slated to speak to the Tea Party convention. Do you consider the Tea Party a wing of the Republican Party, or is it something independent? Do you think it's important to Tea Party members to cut taxes or lower deficits?

Ken Cuccinelli: No. One of the beauties of the Tea Party movement - and the many, many like-minded citizens that don't participate in the Tea Party movement - is the fact that it is independent. Ask soon-to-be-former Senator Bennett and Cong. Inglis...

I do think a focus on fiscal restraint is a central element of the Tea Party, and thank goodness for it! It's long overdue, and that's speaking on a bipartisan basis (i.e., they're both at fault)


Arlington, VA: I know it's your job to enforce laws, but I am very opposed to the VA smoking ban, as it infringes on the rights of property owners, though I realize it's within the police powers of states to do so. I just don't like being in a nanny state. What are the odds that VA might change it's laws to allow bar bars, ones that don't have to serve food, so that these places can go on to allow smokers to drink, like adults, and non smokers can be very free to completely avoid these places. Right now, VA does not allow bar bars, as they must be primarily a restaurant.

Ken Cuccinelli: You know, that question has come up before and I've never seen much willingness in the General Assembly to break down our restaurant classifications further. If I remember correctly, right now the main breakdown is simply serves alcohol or doesn't serve alcohol. Proportion of food vs. alcohol is a factor for some ABC regs, but not for much else that I'm aware of.

Perhaps after the smoking ban is in place a while there might be a move to create such a distinction, but I don't see it yet.


Fairfax, VA: Mr. Cucinelli, I am not a supporter but want to thank you for your service. Yours is a difficult job and I thank you for your commitment. Can you explain why you devote so much of your time and resources to ensuring no progress is made in the areas of same-sex benefits (not just health), adotoption, etc.? I would much rather see you focus on issues that really impact the state.

Ken Cuccinelli: Actually, with the exception of one regulation and one letter (the one to the Universities), I don't think I've spent any other time at all on any topic related to same-sex benefits.


'Expansion' of the Federal Government: This had done nothing but help Virginia's economy. The increase in outsourcing and contracting of federal work, as well as the robust growth in spending on defense, and the security of a federal government job, is what has helped Virginia thrive and stay shielded from the job losses and economic turmoil many other states are experiencing. it seems criticizing this is biting the hand that feeds us, no?

Ken Cuccinelli: The dollars taken by the federal government are taken out of the private economy... where the money is spent better. Keynesians like to say that for every $1 gov spends, we get $1.5 benefit. If that's true, why not let the gov take and invest all of our money? That's ridiculous - to put it politely. The real multiplier (and logically so) is more like $0.50 per dollar.

It may be that a certain segment of that money goes to Virginia's own firms in NoVa, etc., but I'm not real comfortable with my children footing that bill. Are you?

Take another batch of fed money: health and welfare spending. B/c NY has much more generous benefits, they get tons more federal matching money. Va. loses in that deal, and that would have to be scaled back with a smaller government too.

So Virginia would benefit in some respects and have initial challenges in others. However, b/c we have great people and a strong fundamental economy in Virginia, I'm confident that our private sector would quickly adjust.


Montclair, VA: Would you consider beginning the steps to repeal the 17th Amendment to the Constitution? This would bring the Constitution into conformity with the original intent of the founders and provide each state with the leverage needed to hold the federal government in check.

Ken Cuccinelli: I definitely think the 17th amendment had consequences that were not anticipated. A big, easy example: unfunded mandates - we wouldn't have them if the states were still represented directly in the Senate.

I expect to support an effort to create a new constitutional "check" b/n the states and fed gov, but not a repeal of the 17th amendment. More on that later...


Callao, VA: As a fellow Virginian with a slew of vowels in my maiden name, I just want to take this opportunity to say: 1. as an American first, I am proud to share an Italian heritage with you and 2. Virginia is blessed to have you as our AG. Keep up the good fight.

Ken Cuccinelli: Thanks!


Winchester, Va.: Hi Ken. As you know, illegal immigration is a nation wide problem. It affects the labor market and is related to an increase in gang activity. Is Virginia going to follow Arizona's lead and crack down on illegal immigration within the Commonwealth?

Ken Cuccinelli: Certainly the Az situation has invigorated interest in this topic, including here in Virginia. The Az ruling can be VERY ROUGHLY broken down: 1) Az's blocking of sanctuary cities was allowed to stand; 2) Az's tough regulatory requirements on businesses that intentionally hire illegals was allowed to stand; however, 3) most of the law enforcement elements of the law were enjoined for now. Interestingly, some of these are quite fixable, if Az wanted to do it.

In Va., last month, we began a partnership with ICE called "Secure Communities" which makes Va. one of only two states that can run every single arrestee through not only a background criminal database, but also through the DHS database to flag illegals. For serious offenders, ICE has committed to come pick them up. So, in some respects, we're in a much better position than a lot of other states.


pulaski va: can you come to a football game hear in pulaski when pulaski cougars plays radford bobcats for the Battle of the Bridge firday august 27 at 735

Ken Cuccinelli: I love football, but I'm afraid I don't think I can make that game! Thanks for the invite. One of the saddest things about politics is that the heat of the political season falls on football season! At least I'm not running this year, so I can watch to see if the Redskins start to come back, and we have great college football in Va. too. Love it.


richmond VA: Mr. Cuccinelli, I want to thank you for making yourself available to answer questions from the public. My question is in regards to your stand on climate change, a topic on which you have put a great deal of focus considering your position as attorney general. Do you think that our green house gas emmissions have no impact on the environment? Also, would you consider yourself an environmentalist? Under what circumstances would you put the health of the natural world above the desires of man and business?

Ken Cuccinelli: I presume that all emissions have SOME impact. However, it appears that some or much of the science surrounding determing the nature and scope of climate change may be either uncertain or severely biased. E.g., check "post-normal science" on wikipedia, google or bing.

I always want to see us pursuing a balance b/n the needs of mankind, including the need to make a living, and the conservation of our environment. Strikingly, that kind of attempt at balance appears to be badly lacking at EPA... leading to some conflicts b/n Va. and EPA.


McLean, VA: We need more politicians that are willing to stand on principals (in both parties).

But I can understand why they don't -- our current political system encourages and rewards pandering. Would you change anything in our systems (term limits? term lengths?) to help alleviate this problem?

Ken Cuccinelli: Standing on a principal is an assault in Virginia. Haha.

However, standing on a principle is merely frowned upon.


Port Royal, VA: Other than money and word of mouth, how can we assist you in your efforts?

Ken Cuccinelli: Those are both great! Letters to the editor (weeklies and dailies). Visit our website:

You can see an hour long presentation on the healthcare suit (incl. q&a) via the website.

We are also always doing things and we need volunteers to help... which you can sign up to do at the website as well. Thanks for asking!


Richmond, Virginia: As a Richmonder and an Virginian, I have to say I am horrified that a state elected official SWORN to represent the people of Virginia is speaking at a Tea Party protest. They have exhibited threatening racist behavior and are not representative of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Ken Cuccinelli: "They"? I haven't seen that at any Tea Party event I've been to, and I wouldn't tolerate it if I saw it.

Also, I don't think they claim to represent anyone other than themselves. I would say that I have observed the same kinds of concerns (fidelity to the Constitution, limited government, low taxes etc.) in many other Virginians aside from those attending Tea Parties. So, it's not like they're the only ones with those concerns.


Rixeyville, VA: Thank you for your efforts on health care and property rights. We'd like to cheer you on. Please give your thoughts on how traditional family values with calls for prayer can be promoted within the confines of our elected officials. Would you be able to participate in a Virginia legislator's TEA Party Caucus if one would be started in the future, similar to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Congressman Steve King on the Federal level?

Ken Cuccinelli: Prayer for guidance and support has a tradition in America older than our independence, and I can tell you that I always appreciate it when people are praying for me (particularly since enough of them are preying for me... get it?).


Ken Cuccinelli: It's been a pleasure typing as fast as I can with you all today, and I hope you enjoyed the Post article, as they reached areas that no one else has reported on in my 8+ years in politics.

Have a great weekend!


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company