A Supreme slap for a rising right-wing star

Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli might be the nation's hardest-working conservative crusader. But he doesn't always win

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 25, 2011 5:13PM (EDT)

The Supreme Court has declined Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli's request for an expedited review of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Cuccinelli had sought the review on the basis of the supposed unconstitutionality of the healthcare reform law's individual mandate.

How big a deal is this? Perhaps not too much. Virginia's assault on healthcare reform isn't considered the most robust of the various legal challenges working their way through the courts. Standard procedure is to let the federal appellate court process work its way through before the Supremes take on a case -- a timeline that probably delays any ultimate resolution of the constitutionality of healthcare reform until after the 2012 presidential election.

But the news does give us a welcome opportunity to consider, with no small amount of awe, the ideological purity of Cuccinelli. Since taking over as Virginia's attorney general in January 2010, Cuccinelli has been without doubt one of the most industrious -- if not the most successful -- warriors of the hard right.

  • One of Cuccinelli's very first moves was to file a challenge in February 2010 to the EPA's legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Then in April, Cuccinelli attempted to subpoena documents related to the work of the prominent climate science researcher Michael Mann, on the grounds that Mann might have committed "fraud" while seeking grants to fund his research while employed at the University of Virginia. A Virginia judge slapped down that request, but in October Cuccinelli filed a new subpoena alleging possible fraud in another grant application simply because Mann had listed in his curriculum vitae climate science papers that the climate skeptic community considers controversial.
  • In March, Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia's public universities asking them to rescind policies aimed at preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • In July, Cuccinelli released a legal opinion that Virginia law enforcement officers had the right to inquire into the immigration status of anyone stopped at a checkpoint or arrested.

You don't have to look hard to find conservatives who don't believe in global warming and hate healthcare reform, illegal immigrants, and gays. But few have made a more determined effort to advance on all fronts simultaneously than Ken Cuccinelli. The man clearly has aspirations for higher office -- it will be very interesting to see how far his ultra-hardcore agenda takes him in a state that voted for Obama in 2008 and has displayed a recent habit of electing Democratic governors (until 2010.)

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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