Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has cast a critical eye across the border, condemning efforts by the Idaho Legislature to “punish” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.
Ferguson’s comments came during a Zoom presentation Wednesday hosted by Washington State University’s Foley Institute.
During the hourlong event, he discussed a number of lawsuits his office has been involved in over the past year. That includes representing Secretary of State Kim Wyman after she was sued by former gubernatorial candidate Loren Culp.
Culp, a Republican, lost the 2020 election to incumbent Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee by more than 545,000 votes. He subsequently sued Wyman, alleging that thousands of people in five counties voted illegally and that there were other “intolerable voting anomalies.”
“It became very clear after reviewing the allegations – which were sweeping – that there was really no merit to the case,” Ferguson said. “We came to the conclusion that the case … was truly frivolous.”
His office therefore prepared a motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit and impose sanctions on Culp’s attorney.
“It was going to cost taxpayers a lot of money to defend that case,” Ferguson said. “So I said to my team, let’s file a motion saying it’s frivolous.”
As a courtesy, he notified Culp’s attorney that the motion would be filed the next day, unless the lawsuit was withdrawn.
“They could have kept with it and taken their chances before the judge,” Ferguson said. “But the Culp campaign chose to withdraw. They stood down.”
Ferguson likened Culp’s “outrageous claims” to those made in other lawsuits nationwide that challenged the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
That includes a Texas complaint regarding election results in four battleground states.
“That was a frivolous lawsuit,” Ferguson said. “The Supreme Court kicked it out immediately. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if we made the same request there, asking for sanctions. It was that outrageous.”
Nevertheless, 18 attorneys general from Republican states joined the suit. Wasden was one of the few who declined.
“I’ve known Lawrence for many, many years,” said Ferguson, a Democrat. “We have a lot of differences in our views of the world, to put it mildly, but I have great respect for him as a principled individual. He didn’t join the lawsuit, I suspect at great political cost.”
The Idaho Legislature, for example, is considering a number of bills this session to curtail the attorney general’s role as legal counsel for most state agencies, or to limit his ability to address price-gouging by retailers.
House Republicans also voted 40-29 to kill Wasden’s 2022 budget. A revised budget still hasn’t been introduced, leaving next year’s funding in limbo.
“That’s in response to him being right,” Ferguson said. “He didn’t waste taxpayer money by joining the Texas lawsuit. His point was, why join a lawsuit that interferes with another state’s elections? What he said to the people of Idaho was, ‘How would we feel if California or some other blue state tried to interfere in our elections in Idaho? We’d be outraged by it.’”
Idaho’s efforts regarding Wasden reflect similar attempts nationwide to “politicize” the operation of attorney general offices, he said.
“This is frankly not uncommon, but I’m glad in Washington state we’ve managed to avoid it,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson was reelected to a third term as state attorney general last year.