Every profession seems to have national associations. It makes sense that similar organizations exist for elected officials. Generally, at least one of these groups is bipartisan or non-partisan. Or they used to be. Increasingly, rifts are erupting in these groups as America becomes increasingly polarized.
One recent example is the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Following the leaders of that organization working with the White House and Department of Justice to chill protests from parents against racialized and sexualized curricula, 25 state associations, half of America, left the organization. Because the NSBA decided to take the side of the teachers’ unions and radical Left against parents, the state chapters took their dues with them. Estimates are that politics cost the NSBA more than 40% of its revenue and the participation of half of America.
Now there is another example. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is fracturing. On May 5, 2022, three attorneys general sent a letter to NAAG officially withdrawing. Texas AG Ken Paxton, Missouri AG Eric Schmitt, and Montana AG Austin Knudsen sent a letter stating, “While we have been a driving force for NAAG’s success-both financially and on key issues- the Association’s leftward shift over the past half-decade has become intolerable.” The AGs added that they could no longer justify using taxpayer dollars to pay for their membership in what is supposed to be a non-partisan national forum. Their exit followed Alabama AG Steve Marshall leaving NAAG in 2021 after voicing similar concerns.
The current wave of criticism has been building for over a year, according to O.H.Skinner, executive director of Alliance for Consumers. The liberal control of NAAG has led to an increased focus on how the organization manages big pots of money from various settlements. “NAAG is at the center of one of the most pressing consumer protection problems that consumers face: diversion of money from consumer settlements away from consumers and toward special interests,” he explained.
Specifically, Skinner cited a consent judgment from McKinsey, which paid a settlement for their consultative role in marketing OxyContin. NAAG brought a multi-state suit based on deceptive advertising laws in several jurisdictions. According to the settlement terms, McKinsey paid NAAG $15 million. Ostensibly the NAAG funds were for reimbursement of the expenses of the states in investigating the case. These funds appear to be a continued source of contention.
With four AGs already gone, Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron (R-Ky.) penned a letter to NAAG Executive Director Chris Toth on May 24. Seven other state attorneys general were signatories to Cameron’s concerns. The group called for structural changes that would increase bipartisanship in the organization’s management. Additionally, they want transparency before NAAG receives, holds, or spends settlement funds. Cameron specifically cited the McKinsey settlement.
“NAAG’s $15 million McKinsey settlement is nearly double the amounts received by some states and nearly 40% more than Kentucky received. These states have lost thousands of their citizens to the opioid epidemic and represent thousands more who still struggle. Yet NAAG, an entity with no such constituency, collected $15 million,” Cameron wrote. He noted that NAAG reports assets of $280 million between its various entities, and these funds, at least in part, are held on behalf of the states.
In Kentucky, like in other states, the legislature is the body that appropriates the funds that belong to the state. In particular, Kentucky law requires all public monies due to the state to be deposited in state depositories promptly and efficiently and requires they get used for public purposes only. The funds NAAG purportedly collected on behalf of the states have not been transferred to the Kentucky legislature for disbursement.
Cameron also noted Republican members are in the minority on two of the three-fund committees that allocate settlement dollars. In some cases, Republican members report they are constructively barred from submitting the grants for settlement dollars to be returned to their states to benefit red American states. Instead, these dollars, which should often go to citizens who suffered a loss or a fraud, are spent on left-wing programming, according to Cameron.
Cameron requested a response from NAAG by June 6. While his office had received acknowledgement that the NAAG Executive Committee received his letter, Cameron’s office had not received a substantive response by June 10, according to Communications Director Elizabeth Kuhn.
Another recent fracture has been in the medical field. Dr. Pierre Kory, who has dissented from the COVID narrative on early treatment and vaccines for over two years, penned an op-ed in Newsweek. As a lifelong Democrat, he is decrying the politicization of science and medicine:
But now, as with today’s progressive political movement, medical boards are adopting policies that censor opinions, defining such speech as mis- or disinformation, especially scientific opinions around COVID. Medical professionals who refuse to toe the party line risk censorship, cancellation, and even the loss of license–a fate far worse than getting banned from Twitter.
The trend is forcing doctors who exhibit critical thinking to face an existential choice: join the mob and support what many of us believe are dangerous policies without a sound scientific basis, or stand up and risk losing your livelihood.
This ideological division in medicine results in medical boards pursuing the licenses of doctors who dissent with legitimate, research-based opinions. It has created new professional organizations like the Brownstone Institute, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, and America’s Frontline Doctors.
At a minimum, school boards should have common interests in serving the needs of students and be able to welcome discussion about how to accomplish that goal best. Attorneys general should be able to work together to protect states’ rights and litigate on behalf of citizens affected in similar ways by a defendant. Doctors and researchers must be able to have robust debates about the best ways to care for patients in the rapidly changing world of a pandemic.
The fracturing of national associations along political lines is just another way America is becoming balkanized. And an emerging sign it will take a lot more than President Biden screaming unity while demanding compliance to stitch America back together.