Martin Hawver
Guest Columnist
If there’s a skill that politicians—good politicians—learn, it is to leave no footprints while walking across snow.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt has apparently learned that skill.
Most of the press was wailing last week about his hiring of the top-flight Wichita law firm of Foulston Siefken to defend the state against charges that the Legislature illegally shut out Planned Parenthood from any federal pass-through funding for family planning and women’s health.
But, almost as an aside, Schmidt also announced that he’s hired the state’s solicitor general Steve McAllister, and his Lawrence law firm, to defend the state in two separate lawsuits challenging new, done-in-a-hurry rules and regulations on abortion clinics that the clinics say are unnecessary and designed to put them out of business.
What’s the clear message here? That Schmidt, while he was a consistent, antiabortion vote in his decade in the Kansas Senate, wasn’t the leader of debate. He was there for the roll call, but he wasn’t a vocal, wave-the-flag antiabortion senator.
So, he’s contracted out defense of the first three antiabortion lawsuits to good lawyers—good enough that pro-lifers can’t complain that their interests weren’t being ably defended.
If the state’s hired guns win their cases, Schmidt can take credit for defending the will of the Legislature and the governor who signed the bills into law. If any of the cases is lost, Schmidt can say he hired good lawyers, and these things happen…
In either case, there won’t be quotes from Schmidt or his hand-picked staff which will be attributed to him on the abortion cases.
Does it get much better than that for a politician? Probably not.
Now, that doesn’t mean it won’t cause some problems for Schmidt next year. Those good lawyers don’t work for free, and the nature of these cases is not such that would allow the hired help to take a percentage of the judgment.
Depending on how long the cases take, when the lawyers’ bills come due it’s likely Schmidt will have to ask the Legislature for a bump in his budget for the coming year.
That’ll give pro-choice lawmakers a chance to drag Schmidt around for a while, and if they’re clever in their questioning they could get the attorney general to say that he was too busy with consumer protection cases or signing onto the latest challenge of the federal health-care law to devote the time it would take to handle the abortion cases himself, or at least in-house.
But, remember, it was the Legislature that by big votes approved the laws and the governor who signed them that Schmidt contracted out the defense of, and chances are good he’ll get the money.
Footprints in the snow? Not many, it appears…until someone challenges the new definition of abortion approved last session which stops just short of riding a horse while pregnant…
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