Roy Cooper has served honorably as North Carolina’s attorney general since his election in 2000 and has been re-elected by the people three more times, most recently last year. It is a personal and professional insult to him that Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders have hired outside lawyers to defend the state’s horrible voter identification law, one that contains voting restrictions (including photo ID) clearly designed to suppress the votes of minorities and others likely to vote Democratic.
The law has to be defended because the U.S. Department of Justice is suing to stop it. Under state law, Cooper’s office is tasked with that defense, and the attorney general strongly objects, and rightly so, to the fact that McCrory has hired Butch Bowers, an active Republican in South Carolina, to lead the defense at $360 an hour. Republican legislative leaders have hired Tom Farr of Raleigh to represent their interests in the suit. They passed a law giving them the right to do that. They have not said what Farr will be paid.
It’s true that Cooper advised the governor not to sign the voting bill, believing it to be “regressive” and likely to be challenged. But Cooper rightly notes that his office has defended other laws with which he did not agree, in the name of doing the duty of the attorney general.
Republicans have thumbed their noses at common sense and common courtesy ever since they gained control of both the legislature and the governor’s office, and now they’re going to waste the public’s money, lots of it, defending a bad law that could well be overturned. Cooper’s record is clear. In hiring expensive outside counsel, Republican leaders, including the governor, show they assume that because they have ruled with harsh partisanship, blindly plowing ahead with their marriage amendment and their campaign against public education, Roy Cooper also would allow ideology to guide his performance of his duty.
Not all public officials do that. Not all.