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William C. “Bill” Mims Formally Becomes Virginia’s 45th Attorney General


As anticipated, today Virginia’s General Assembly elected former Chief Deputy Attorney General William C. Mims as Virginia’s 45th Attorney General.  You can read the official OAG press release here.   

This followed in the wake of former Attorney General Bob McDonnell’s announced resignation several weeks ago.  Again, as readers of this blog are aware, McDonnell’s resignation has been anticipated for some time, as he is the early favorite to become Virginia’s next Governor.  

In my opinion, McDonnell has been by far the best Virginia Attorney General in a generation.  Mims is a fine fellow as well, and he will do just fine until we get a new AG in a few months (actually, 11 months).  However, lets all hope that this will be the final installation in the OAG’s three year term tradition.

Some might ask why that is important–after all, the OAG has been seen as nothing more than a stepping stone to the Governor’s mansion for the last 36 years, why should we change now? 

A handful of recent press releases from General McDonnell show why the next Attorney General of Virginia absolutely must make real changes to that office, and why Virginians can no longer afford to have a three-year Attorney General. 

On February 19, 2009, the OAG announced a grant of $30,116 to a public interest group helping to benefit seniors, as well as a $1 million grant to the Virginia Health Care Foundation to provide mental health services in the Commonwealth. 

This announcement comes on the heels of millions of dollars in other grants announced over the last several months by the OAG.  Some might reasonably wonder where this money is coming from, given that our Commonwealth is in a budget crisis the likes of which we have not seen in many years.  

The answer is simple.  The money is coming from the proceeds of qui tam cases prosecuted under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act and the Federal False Claims Act.  As the press releases explain, this money in particular has come from the prosecution of health care claims under our state statute, which creates liability for anyone submitting false or fraudulent claims to the Commonwealth for payment, and provides for treble damages, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees against any person or company breaking the law.  

Under Bob McDonnell’s tenure, the OAG recovered more than $700 million from dishonest companies and individuals in the health care industry.  They range in statute from Fortune 50 companies to individuals, but they all have one thing in common–they saw money for the taking, and they took it.  And don’t think that is all of it, people.  That $700 million is just a portion of the money stolen from us. 

So there are two questions we should ask.  First, if all this money is being stolen from Medicaid, is that the only state program from which dishonest companies and individuals are stealing?  The answer to that question is NO.   

Folks, a wide variety of unsavory characters make an enormous amount of money by ripping off the Commonwealth.  The same thing is true on the federal level of course, with one major difference–the United States Department of Justice actively prosecutes civil claims on behalf of the United States, and has done so for 146 years. 

On the other hand, Bob McDonnell, and his first-class Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) are the first in Virginia history to actively pursue recovering some of our Virginia tax dollars–and they only went after the health care related fraud, because that is what the MFCU is for.   

So, there is a second question citizens of the Commonwealth should be asking our new General Mims at this point–in Virginia, could we get even more money back if we actively pursued fraud against the Commonwealth in areas other than health care? 

The answer is yes.  It is a qualified yes, however, because in order to police the rest of Virginia’s budget the same way McDonnell and the MFCU have policed our use of Medicaid funds, it will take an Attorney General with vision and conviction.  It will take an Attorney General who understands exactly what the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act is for–or at least, one who will put people who understand the statute in the right places in the new Administration.

In Virginia, we should be proud of our minimalist government and our low tax burden.  But we should also recognize that our government could do much, much more with our tax money if only the right AG would step forward.

And it will take the creation of a first-class affirmative civil enforcement unit within the OAG.  But that is another story for a different day. 


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