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Blog Post | January 19, 2024

The Republican Attorneys General Association Sells Access To Major State Officers Nationwide

Ethics in GovernmentState Attorneys General
The Republican Attorneys General Association Sells Access To Major State Officers Nationwide

The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) is a national organization dedicated to electing and reelecting state-level Republican Attorneys General. It is a partisan political  organization, but it also functions as a dark money influence machine selling access to AGs, their staff, and their offices. 

RAGA is a 527 organization, meaning that it can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations and is also not subject to any spending limits. As a result, RAGA is a massive campaign donor for most Republican attorneys general candidates—and its donors, by extension, must be considered to be significant funders of Republican AGs themselves.


The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) found in 2016 that corporations could pay $125,000 for a “premium” RAGA membership, a price that offers corporations private meetings with AGs, their staff, and attendance at RAGA’s national conference. RAGA’s conference in 2016 included representatives from the “Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), organizations which have previously received substantial funding from Exxon and the fossil fuel industry.” While there, AGs — including then-Alabama AG (and soon-to-be-elected RAGA Chairman) Luther Strange — participated in a climate-change panel, peddling climate denialist rhetoric with CEI Director Myron Ebell and AFPM President Chet Thompson.

There is routine overlap between those with business recently, or currently, before attorneys general and RAGA donors. In 2018, “CBS News reviewed 88 donations over $50,000 or more to RAGA and found 46 of those donors had matters under consideration by a state attorney general or had recently settled. Others needed help from the AG community. The NRA, for instance, made a $700,000 donation to RAGA four weeks after the Las Vegas shooting.” 

In that same year, RAGA and the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) — RAGA’s fundraising arm — encouraged public officials to look at policy memos posted to a private “briefing room” by its donors before joining RLDF conference calls. Critics alleged that these postings appeared to allow “donors and RLDF staff to privately communicate directly with elected officials who would ordinarily be subject to disclosures under open record laws.”

Republican AGs have often found themselves in conflict with public records law compliance in regards to their relationships with RAGA and its affiliates. The Center for Media And Democracy (CMD) previously sued Utah AG Sean Reyes in 2017, for example, for his refusal to turn over his communications with RAGA and the RLDF. Reyes claimed that all communications were solely predicated on unofficial (and thus not public) political and campaign activities. Despite this claim, RLDF had coordinated legal briefs and official letters on behalf of Reyes, and at least two of his staff members had attended half a dozen RAGA national meetings. In 2020, CMD sued Ohio AG Dave Yost for similar, improper, withholdings of documents related to RAGA and RLDF. For years, RLDF’s support for, and coordination of, Republican AGs in their efforts to attack climate and environmental policies has been robust and, unfortunately, historically successful. 

RAGA, Industry Partnerships, And Its Business Interests

RAGA also has a supremely cozy relationship to industry generally. Between 2014 and 2022, RAGA received more than $7.4 million in donations from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates, particularly from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform — which POLITICO described as a project established by the U.S. Chamber to “defend business interests in court.”  

Aside from having extensive ties to organizations like the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a corporate lobbying organization — the largest in the country — dedicated to advancing the private interests of corporations at all levels of American government. In 2011, the Chamber was described as having been “wrong on all the issues—for 99 years and counting” and since has continued advancing interests that are verifiably harmful for working people and catastrophic for the economy, in addition to working diligently to blockade and sabotage actual climate policy. Despite choosing the elites over the public on almost every level imaginable, Republican AGs and their staff have continued accepting U.S. Chamber money, participating in its events, and actively supporting its litigation. 

RAGA, of course, is also deeply indebted to the oil and gas industry. RAGA has received more than $5.6 million from oil and gas companies and their affiliates from 2018-2020 alone. Those donations included $1.5 million from Anadarko Petroleum in 2018, $220,725 from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers in 2019-2020, $125,000 apiece from Chevron and Exxon in 2019-2020, and 100,000 from the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 2019-2020 as well. 

The industry’s generosity pays. In 2021, following a briefing for RAGA members conducted by API staffers advocating against methane regulations, Republican AGs sent a letter to two Senate committees asking Senators to vote against those same proposed regulations, which has long been a priority for the fossil fuels group and industry writ large. 

RAGA’s Love Affairs With The GOP’s Megadonors

Of course, RAGA is also firmly indebted to the marked generosity, and near unprecedented influence, of some of the GOP’s biggest billionaire donors.

Between 2014 and 2022, RAGA received more than $15 million from the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN). JCN is part of Leonard Leo’s network, also known as the Concord Fund, which gave RAGA an additional $1 million in the first half of this year alone. 

JCN has been described as having near “unmatched” influence in shaping the federal judiciary, and Leo has expertly implemented a mass patronage system in flooding everything from the U.S. Supreme Court to state-level judgeships and legal offices with conservative operatives.

This focus extends to state level AGs; Leo-associated entities have been among RAGA’s top donors for years. Bombshell reporting from POLITICO this December revealed that most amici briefs in high profile conservative cases, and advocating for conservative causes, came from organizations and people that can be closely associated with the billionaire. 

Republican AGs, notably, were also litigants and amici of many of these same cases

Of course Leonard Leo is not the only funder for RAGA and its associated attorneys. RAGA has received millions from the Koch family and its associated foundations over the years, an empire which has long been known for being a massively polluting, union-busting, deregulation-driving, money machine.

Attorneys General Matter, Who Funds Them Does Too 

Attorneys General wield immense power. They are entrusted with the responsible stewardship of state resources in defense of their publics and the upholding of the public interest. They are charged with the sacred responsibility of holding first and foremost this interest, and ameliorating its disappointment should it be violated in the private sector, by federal agents, or elsewhere.

Yet, when attorneys general are bought by the same actors they are meant to defend their respective publics against, that power quickly becomes incredibly sinister. RAGA, as an organizing and funding entity — and one so thoroughly corrupted by the corrosive influence of proven to be bad actors — for more than half of these offices nationwide, must be critically interrogated.


Ken Paxton by Gage Skidmore” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Ethics in GovernmentState Attorneys General

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