In an astonishing coincidence few could have foreseen, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed eight times as many lawsuits against the federal government under President Barack Obama than his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Abbott has sued the United States 24 times at a cost to Texas taxpayers of $2.58 million over Obama’s time in office, according to an Associated Press story today.
By examining records obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act, Associated Press determined assistant attorneys general and staff rolled up more than 14,000 hours working on the Supreme Court Challenge to Obamacare, the state Legislature’s recent redistricting and a string of wins over Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
Abbott, a Republican who first took office in 2002, sued the federal government a total of three times between 2004 and 2007, years when Bush served as president. He has become a leader among Republican attorneys general in recognizing a change in presidential administrations.
In his five-year strategic plan for the Attorney General’s office, Abbott’s first three principles for the philosophy of state government are:
- First and foremost, Texas matters most. This is the overarching, guiding principle by which we will make decisions. Our state, and its future, is more important than party, politics, or individual recognition.
- Government should be limited in size and mission, but it must be highly effective in performing the tasks it undertakes.
- Decisions affecting individual Texans, in most instances, are best made by those individuals, their families, and the local government closest to their communities.
Abbott told Associated Press his hard line with the federal government constituted "a fight against the unprecedented ideology coming from the Obama administration."
Critics including Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, Texas House Democratic Caucus leader, said all the suing was expensive at a time of budget austerity for the Legislature.
How expensive? For this we consulted the Attorney General’s 2012 budget and employed the vaunted Texas Watchdog calculator.
Although its budget figures do not include 2009, Obama’s first year in office, the $2.58 million spent on federal lawsuits represents .9 percent of the $274 million budgeted for all litigation, legal services and counseling between 2010 and 2012, according to the budget.
The budget for litigation, legal services and counseling has increased by 22.1 percent, from $81.6 million in 2010 to $99.6 million budgeted for 2012. Total federal lawsuit expenses represent 14.3 percent of the $18 million increase over the last three budget years.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or email@example.com or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.
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Photo of gavel by flickr user bloomsberries, used via a Creative Commons license.