Hood touts progress in first term

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Attorney General Jim Hood on Tuesday touted his forward progressin 10 key areas of his 2003 campaign and promised to continue thoseefforts if voters elect him to a second term Nov. 6.

During a visit to The DAILY LEADER office, the Democraticnominee also refuted claims by Republican challenger Al Hopkinsregarding favoritism for campaign donors during hisadministration.

Hood said there have been tremendous gains in his “10-pointplan” during the last four years.

His office established the first Cyber Crime Center in thenation to address the growing concern of cyber-related criminalactivity. The unit investigates and prosecutes crimes involvingillegal computer and Internet activity, including childexploitation and pornography, identity theft and internet fraud.The center also provides safety training to civicorganizations.

Hood said the center recently received a $250,000 grant throughthe federal Department of Justice to fund two investigators toconduct Internet sting operations on child exploitation andpornography.

“About every two weeks we’re making an arrest on those,” hesaid.

The incumbent said his office also developed a comprehensiveagreement between schools, law enforcement and other state andlocal agencies to share information about juveniles who may pose athreat to school safety.

“We’re working with the colleges now after the Virginiaincident,” Hood said.

The attorney general said crime victims and victims of domesticabuse had also benefited during his administration with programs tohelp them cope with their difficulties.

Hood also touted the passage of a bill limiting the sale ofpseudoephedrine, a precursor in the manufacture ofmethamphetamines. The law placed pseudoephedrine products behindthe counter or locked cases in stores and limited the amount thatcould be purchased at one time.

“That bill has reduced meth lab offenses by 71 percent,” hesaid.

Hood discounted claims by his opponent that he was unfairlyawarding state contracts to lawyers who had donated to his campaignand said those cases were only a small part of the attorneygeneral’s job.

The incumbent said the state currently has 3,400 activedefendant cases and 18 plaintiff cases under its purview. Eleven ofthose 18 plaintiff cases are securities cases, which have receivedthe sharpest criticism.

Hopkins has claimed that Hood unfairly rewards attorneys bygiving them cases that may have high-dollar settlements.

Hood refuted that claim and said cases are awarded on a firstcome, first served basis, provided the firm has the resources tohandle the case. He said only eight or 10 firms in the state havethe resources needed to handle major state cases.

He admitted many of the cases were brought to his office by theattorney who eventually handled the case. He added he felt the casewas their “intellectual property” and it would not have been onewithout the attorney attracting attention to it.

Regardless, he said, no attorney representing the state hasreceived any state money from those cases. Only one plaintiff’scase has recovered any state funding and the attorney fees werepaid by the defendant, he said.

“The lawyers didn’t get a dime of state money,” Hood said.

Hood further defended his actions by stating former AttorneyGeneral Mike Moore was criticized for not having a plan. He saidhis plan was developed when he took office four years ago afterconsulting with the attorneys general in other states as the mostequitable option available.