ExecutiveBiz recently interviewed Ken Cuccinelli, Republican candidate for Attorney General of Virginia. He outlined his experience, legislative priorities and his plans for keeping Virginia’s communities safe. Here are some notable quotes:
- “…in our last budget we met the budget in part because the federal government came in and stuck a $4 billion infusion of cash ““ it's not going to be capable of doing that for very long.”
- “We've got people who are getting arrested more than one time for dealing drugs and not going to jail. Needless to say, I have a problem with that.”
- “We have the Northern Virginia gang problem, down the I-80 rural corridor and in our rural areas. It is based heavily in illegal immigration, it is international, and it is violent.”
“Cyber attacks aren't necessarily terrorism, but they certainly can take that form. In Northern Virginia and in urban hubs like Richmond and Southeast Virginia this is a particularly sensitive issue because a good chunk of their economy relies on high-tech business. It's not just the inconvenience of not being able to email, those companies' business is seriously damaged.”
– Ken Cuccinelli
ExecutiveBiz: What are your top legislative priorities?
Ken Cuccinelli: In terms of legislation, I will continue my efforts in the area of mental health. We have a lot of work left to do and, as the General Assembly Leader on that issue, I expect to bring that leadership to the Attorney General's Office. I will also continue to be aggressive toward child sexual predators and gangs and, as Bob McDonnell and I announced in August when we did our public safety roll-out, we want to turn particular focus and attention toward repeat drug dealers. We've got people who are getting arrested more than one time for dealing drugs and not going to jail. Needless to say, I have a problem with that.
ExecutiveBiz: What is the greatest challenge you see facing Virginia in the 21st century?
Ken Cuccinelli: Right now I think we are facing a period where Virginia government is more constrained in terms of its reasonable expectations of tax revenues than we have been in a long time. As the federal government becomes available to us financially — for instance in our last budget we met the budget in part because the federal government came in and stuck a $4 billion infusion of cash ““ it's not going to be capable of doing that for very long. They just aren't going to be able to borrow the money; that's borrowed money that's not just their tax money, that's borrowed money. From a government standpoint we're going to have to be doing our job with less going forward. We're in a down period and the federal tax cuts from the beginning part of this decade are going to run out in a couple of years ““ that's going to be a blow to the economy and there is no way on earth that this Congress is going to reinstate those. So we are in an extended period here where we are going to have to be looking ahead at doing our business without a great deal of expansion. If we don't do that we're going to be impeding the private sector's ability to grow and thrive and produce the jobs that we would all like to see in the private sector.
ExecutiveBiz: In light of serious fiscal shortfalls nationwide how will you trim the Commonwealth's budget?
Ken Cuccinelli: I'll have to give up my Senate vote to go to the AG's office where you don't have a direct role in budgeting. I am being very careful not to propose grand expansions of the office that we simply can't fund right now. I'm trying to be realistic in terms of the goals that I set for my tenure as Attorney General if I'm able to win this race. Really what I'm trying to do is plan ahead to rein in the growth in the Attorney General's Office which would be my responsibility if I won. It would be my executive agency that I would be responsible for with approximately 500 employees.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan to secure Virginia's IT infrastructure from cyber attacks?
Ken Cuccinelli: We have a lot of corporate resources in Virginia and they're allies who can help us develop this policy and change it on a rolling basis. We are going to have to be dynamic because it is a constantly changing environment for us. The most important things are to be vigilant and to be flexible because we are going to have to continually adopt how we approach this problem and what we do to defend against it on an ongoing basis. Within the government, the less we can do in the way of accumulating databases the better. I'll give you one example, the Oxycontin database that was hacked. There were 8 million people whose personal information was compromised. If you don't compile personal data in the first place, it isn't there to steal. I think we need to be very careful at the level of state government to not gather information on our citizens that we don't really need. We need to be thinking those things through on the front end and keep ourselves in a position where it is harder for anybody who wants to hack our databases or use our processes to do things they shouldn't be doing. At the same time we have, in recent years, been beefing up our coordination between local state and federal law enforcement to contend with cyber attacks and terrorism. Cyber attacks aren't necessarily terrorism, but they certainly can take that form. In Northern Virginia and in urban hubs like Richmond and Southeast Virginia this is a particularly sensitive issue because a good chunk of their economy relies on high-tech business. It's not just the inconvenience of not being able to email, those companies' business is seriously damaged. That is critically important to avoid.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan to make Virginia a safer place to raise a family?
Ken Cuccinelli: Unfortunately, the Virginia Tech tragedy made it fairly clear to people that mental health issues aren't just public health issues, they are also public safety issues. We are protecting both the mentally ill and their communities by doing a better job in forming that system so that those folks can get the help they need before they end up in our jails and before they are committing crimes. In Fairfax, for instance, 1/6th of our inmate population is mentally ill, so this is an enormous crossover in the public safety arena that we need to address. There are things that we can do there to be more efficient and reach more people and do it more effectively. I know that because I have been working in that arena for over a decade. We also need to stay aggressive addressing the gang threat which continues to evolve. We have the Northern Virginia gang problem, down the I-80 rural corridor and in our rural areas. It is based heavily in illegal immigration, it is international, and it is violent. We need to utilize the tools that we've got in the Attorney General's Office. The Attorney General's Office is particularly well positioned to do that because we are not bound by any of the internal boundaries of Virginia. I have MS13, the most violent gang in Virginia in my senate district, something I take very seriously. Internet predation, both fraud against the elderly and sexual predation on children, is the largest area of internet crime, and it's growing. Fraud is more prevalent, but sex offenders make the biggest impact, and they're certainly the ones that we are all most worried about. I was an engineer before I was a lawyer, so I have a technical background and I will certainly bring that to bear to address these problems. I think we need to take a tiered approach; when you've got organized fraud going on that's where you want to focus your resources.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your message for Virginia's business community?
Ken Cuccinelli: I will protect our right to work. I have a 0% AFL-CIO voting record, I am endorsed by the NFIB, the small businesses of Virginia. I am a small business owner, so I've had to contend with all of the little problems that governments lob at you and the requirements just to run a business. I have a very real appreciation for the burden that government can put on business and how that slows you down and comes right off the bottom line. I want our businesses to know that I'm going to do the best I can to get the government out of your way. The government's job is to create opportunities so that the private sector can create jobs. I am going to do everything I can ““ consistent with the law to stay out of the way of business and to keep our regulatory burden as light on business as we can so they can grow again, hire folks again and start new businesses again and do all of those things that frankly we all hope they will be doing sometime soon, myself included.
ExecutiveBiz: What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
Ken Cuccinelli: Given what a workaholic I am, they would probably be surprised to learn that my favorite activity on vacation is doing nothing, just sitting calmly watching the kids play or watching a football game or what have you. It's just that I'm not sedentary very often but I do appreciate the notion of doing nothing.