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Could an Attorney General use his charity regulatory powers for political purposes?

Submitted by Geoffrey Peters, CEO, Moore DM Group

On January 21, 2015, The Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”) filed suit against the State of Oklahoma alleging that Oklahoma’s Attorney General, E. Scott Pruitt, despite not having received a single complaint from any contributor to HSUS that they were misled by any HSUS charitable solicitation, and suggesting that Pruitt was conducting “a nearly year-long campaign of legal harassment and public vilification [of HSUS] for political gain.” HSUS seeks a temporary and permanent injunction against ‘further harassment.’ Other sources suggest that the Attorney General “is aligned with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the rival of the HSUS on matters pertaining to the treatment of animals.” This case could be a significant one for charities seeking to avoid overly broad and burdensome requests by state charity regulatory officials. (District Court, Oklahoma County, CV-2015-90)

In a related matter, legislation has been introduced in Virginia (HJ 578) amending the state Constitution to limit investigatory subpoenas and administrative demands for documents and papers to those that meet Fourth Amendment standards of “probable cause.”