This summer, state Sen. John S. Edwards, D-Roanoke, asked Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli whether it is a conflict of interest for Cuccinelli and his office to preside over an election in which he is a candidate. He wanted to know whether that conflict required Cuccinelli to recuse his office from prosecuting any violations of election law. On Friday, Edwards received his answer — no. “It is my opinion that there is no inherent conflict of interest presented, and thus, no per se requirement that the Office of the Attorney General recuse from investigating and prosecuting alleged violations of election law, when the Attorney General is a candidate for public office in the same election that is under investigation,” Cuccinelli wrote in a five-page legal opinion, posted to the Attorney General’s website today. “It is further my opinion that any potential recusal of that office must be determined on a case-by-case basis.”
In the opinion Cuccinelli notes that the law gives the governor the authority to appoint special counsel if it is deemed necessary to handle elections prosecutions, and also give the attorney general the authority to appoint outside counsel should a conflct develop.
“The General Assembly has provided adequate alternatives for the commonwealth’s legal representation,” the opinion states.
“…There is no legal or ethical requirement that a sitting Attorney General who is on the ballot for an election disqualify himself or his Office from performing all of the Office’s statutory responsiblities.”