While visiting the Redmond Rotary Club on the Thursday after Veteran’s Day, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he’s focused on the legal rights and protections of those who have served our country.
Ferguson, who comes from a large family with six siblings, said that his uncles, father, grandfather and great grandfather served in the military.
“As a kid growing up, I didn’t have to read about the Battle of the Bulge or the Normandy invasion or the sinking of the Quincy from a history book. My uncles were there, and many other theaters throughout World War II,” he said.
Ferguson, a Democrat, is serving his second term as the state’s chief legal officer. He is “committed to protecting the people of Washington against powerful interests that don’t play by the rules,” according to a Rotary press release.
Ferguson has made it a goal to visit every Rotary club in Washington, and is on number 138 out of about 180. He said he appreciates Rotary’s mission of public service.
He became involved in veterans’ issues as a King County Councilmember, and authored the county’s Veterans, Seniors and Human Services levy, which was recently renewed in 2017.
As attorney general, Ferguson has emphasized enforcing the state’s Consumer Protection Act and other “affirmative litigation” efforts including anti-trust, civil rights and criminal justice. The act states “one cannot engage in unfair or deceptive business practice,” he said. His office receives more than 20,000 consumer complaints per year.
“There are scams out there that focus on veterans [and] service members or prey on the goodwill of Washingtonians who want to donate to charities that ostensibly help veterans,” he said.
For example, his office busted apartment complexes that weren’t accepting VASH vouchers and a “so-called” charity that was making money by selling T-shirts and bracelets with the names of fallen soldiers, but didn’t donate any of its profits.
Ferguson said that his office is the largest law firm in the state of Washington, with more than 600 attorneys and professional staff working out of 13 offices around the state. Washington’s attorney general’s office has a culture of independence, Ferguson said. He followed Rob McKenna, and though the two have different political beliefs and belong to different parties, retained McKenna’s senior staffers. Some of those had served under Christine Gregoire as well.
Questions from the audience focused on current events, including the Trump administration’s travel ban and Washington’s gun control initiative. Ferguson sued Trump over the former, and said the state expects a legal challenge on the latter.
Ferguson’s office has filed 32 lawsuits against the Trump administration (“that’s a lot, which I recognize,” he said) and 15 have been decided. The Washington attorney general has won all of them, and nine can’t be appealed further.
“People often say, ‘Bob, how can you file so many lawsuits against the administration?’ My response, and I think a better question, is why doesn’t the administration better follow the law when issuing executive orders?” he said.
One of those cases involves the 18,000 Dreamers in Washington. Dreamers are primarily undocumented students and youth who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and protected from deportation by President Barack Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) executive order. President Donald Trump announced his intention to phase out the DACA program in 2017, which Ferguson challenged.
“The reason why Dreamers cannot be deported right now because of our successful litigation,” he said, though he noted that the case may head to the Supreme Court.
Ferguson hasn’t just taken the Trump administration to court; he also sued the Obama administration twice over worker protection issues at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. He has three criteria when deciding to file a lawsuit: one, if it harms Washingtonians, two, if he has a legal argument and three, if he as attorney general can bring it on behalf of the people.
Ferguson has also supported gun control measures, including banning on certain semi-automatic rifles and raising the age to 21 to purchase one. They weren’t passed by the Legislature, so voters took gun control into their own hands with Initiative 1639.
“When the initiative passed, there will be a legal challenge, no two ways around that,” he said. “Our job will be to defend it.”
Redmond Rotary is a nonprofit leadership organization and a member of Rotary International. All are welcome to visit the weekly meetings. Learn more at www.redmondrotary.org.