Jack McMullen talks about the Attorney General’s race

by Rob Roper

Burlington businessman Jack McMullen officially tossed his hat into the race for Vermont Attorney General in June. With no other Republican vying for the position, McMullen will face off with the winner of the August 28 Democrat primary, either incumbent William Sorrell or Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan. In an interview with True North Reports, McMullen laid out his vision and priorities for how he would handle the job.

Why Attorney General?

Although McMullen is an attorney who not only graduated from Harvard Law School, but taught there as well, he sees his experience in private sector business as the strongest asset he would bring to the Attorney General’s office. McMullen is the Managing Principle of Cambridge Meridian Group, a consulting firm that helps early stage technology companies get off the ground.

Given today’s economy and the need to bring more good paying jobs to Vermont, McMullen thinks this experience will set him apart from either of his possible competitors in a positive way. After all, the recent example of how the incumbent Attorney General dealt with Cabot Cheese over labeling provides a vivid example of what an Attorney General who understands how business work would be a good thing.

Why a business background helps with law

Cabot Cheese began in Vermont in 1919 as a farmers’ cooperative, and has been associated with the Green Mountain State ever since. It’s one of those brands that, like Ben & Jerries, Burton Snow Boards, and maple syrup, have helped through their success and quality to build the “Vermont Brand” that we all benefit from. However, when Cabot was bought by AgriMark, the company ran afoul of the Vermont Origin Rule because 75 percent of the milk used in Cabot butter no longer came from Vermont.

Cabot decided to “voluntarily” remove “Vermont” from it’s labeling, and as a result, as the company expands outside the Northeast, Vermont will not benefit from being associated with a high quality product, and Cabot will not benefit from being associated with Vermont.

McMullen sees this as a lose/lose proposition, and one that need not have occurred at all. This is a company with a near hundred-year history in our state. “They continue to be headquartered here, although they are [now] owned by AgriMark. And, more importantly, they are active in Vermont, supporting Vermont causes financially and other ways…. A completely different approach would have worked better,” said McMullen. “Instead of the cold threat of litigation following [a visit from the Attorney General’s office], which was implicit, not stated, I would have gone with a different attitude. Look. We have a law here. You’re out of compliance in a couple of areas, but obviously you’re a Vermont centered organization. What can we do to help?… What can we do to revise the law… to cover a situation like this, rather than woodenly apply the law?”

A focus on deterring rising drug related crime

Still, McMullen questioned why Cabot would be a priority for the Attorney General at all. As Attorney General, McMullen would change the focus of the office. “We have a runaway, drug induced, crime problem in our state. For instance, in the month of June, up to June 27th, there were forty-seven burglaries, many in broad daylight, in the Hill section of [Burlington]…. My colleague in the office who is from St. Albans tells me there have been three armed robberies in broad daylight in the last two-and-a-half months on the streets of St. Albans. Right down town! We have home invasions in Essex, which is a middle class suburb. These things didn’t used to happen. Two or three burglaries a month was the norm. So, why is the chief law officer of the state not making resolving this crime problem job one?”

That’s what McMullen proposes to do. “The charter of the Attorney General says he can intervene wherever there is an interest or a concern…. I would assemble a strike force,” pledged McMullen, “hopefully cooperating with the States’ Attorneys and law enforcement, to identify and remove the repeated criminal offenders and the violent offenders.”

A more practical, less ideological AG’s office

McMullen also touched on some of the high profile lost cases that the Attorney General has suffered, including Vermont Yankee, the data mining case Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc, and the campaign finance case Randall v. Sorrell, the latter two tossed out by the United States Supreme Court.

“The campaign finance law was widely believed to be unconstitutional said McMullen, “even by many members of the legislature. It was a cavalier attitude at the time, which was, ‘well, we’re pressing the envelope; let’s see if it flies.’ Three or four million dollars later we found out how it flew!”

“My approach would be in those cases where the legislature was considering very aggressive legislation to step in as the Attorney General and advise them as to what they are likely able to do, and what they are likely unable to do. It’s a valid point to address campaign finance. It’s not very intelligent to do that and find out a couple of years later at the Supreme Court – a couple of million dollars later — that you were wrong.”

McMullen sated, “The job of the Attorney General is to be a non-partisan, objective, fiduciary for the state of Vermont.”

The full interview with Jack McMullen can be seen HERE.

The Campaign’s facebook page can be found HERE.