Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a conservative, term-limited Republican who leaves office on Jan. 2, reflected on his eight years in office in a wide-ranging end-of-term interview with The Epoch Times.
In the interview, Brnovich said conservatives need to use the legal system more aggressively to fight the left while he celebrated victories over the Biden administration in the recent Title 42 case and in an election integrity lawsuit.
He also said more needed to be done to combat the suppression of free speech on social media platforms.
Brnovich won election in 2014 and became Arizona’s attorney general in January 2015. He was reelected in 2018. He served as a delegate for Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, according to Ballotpedia.
He sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2022 but was defeated. In April of that year, Trump refused to endorse him, accusing him, among other things, of being too soft on election fraud in the 2020 elections. The winner of the GOP Senate nod, Trump-endorsed Blake Masters, was defeated in the general election.
Some Republicans say Brnovich didn’t do enough as attorney general to fight alleged electoral improprieties in the November 2022 election that pitted Republican Kari Lake against the eventual official winner, Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, a Democrat. The election was the focus of several high-profile legal battles.
Brnovich emphasized that he is “not a politician.”
“I had never run for any office before I ran for AG,” he said in an interview on Dec. 28, 2022.
“I’m a middle-class public school kid who grew up here in Arizona. I was a gang prosecutor. I worked at a think tank called the Goldwater Institute. I’ve always been a principled intellectual conservative, and I’ve met a lot of people in politics that aren’t like that,” Brnovich said.
“They’re very transactional, and they’re very poll-driven, and I’ve just never been like that. So I always tell people I can speak for myself, but I have no idea what anyone else is going to do. I just know that a lot of other elected officials have let me down, especially in the last decade,” he said.
Election Integrity Win
He said the “leading election integrity case in a generation,” Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, “is only named after me because I stepped up and defended our common-sense election integrity measures when other politicians wouldn’t.”
Brnovich was referring to the Supreme Court’s 6-3 landmark ruling in July 2021 that upheld Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting, finding the prohibitions did not violate the federal Voting Rights Act, as The Epoch Times reported.
Brnovich said at the time that the high court “recognized when it comes to time, place and manner, the states have a lot of authority.”
Former U.S. Justice Department civil rights attorney J. Christian Adams said at the time that the decision was “a clear victory for election integrity.”
“The Court obliterated the idea that there must be demonstrable voter fraud to enact a law to deter and prevent it,” said Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. “This is a big blow to the vote fraud deniers who have turned to the courts to make our elections less secure.”
Brnovich said on Dec. 28 that the Supreme Court’s decision the day before to extend for the time being the Title 42 order allowing rapid removal of illegal aliens at the border on public health grounds was a “nice little bow on a holiday package.” Brnovich was one of the principal architects of a legal strategy aimed at preserving the order.
Title 42 supporters say the Biden administration failed to follow the correct procedures for terminating the Trump-era policy, which they say is needed to stanch the flow of unauthorized migrants into the United States. States backing the request for emergency relief said getting rid of the policy, as President Joe Biden wants to do, would make things even worse at the border and incentivize more illegal aliens to enter the country.
“We led on Title 42 and we stopped the Biden administration from rescinding one of the last tools we have left in our toolbox to … prevent an even greater catastrophe at our southern border,” Brnovich said.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the merits of the case in February.
In excerpts from the interview that The Epoch Times published last week, Brnovich said that conservatives need to use the courts as he did in the Title 42 case to fight back against left-wing abuses.
“What the left has done is they have filed lawsuits, alleging violations of, for example, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the rule-making process is so convoluted,” Brnovich said.
“In an ideal and perfect world, the federal government wouldn’t be promulgating all these rules and regulations. I mean, my goodness, it was a plank in the Republican Party platform in 1980 to get rid of the federal Department of Education. And now you’ve got the federal government, and even Republican states, begging the federal government for money,” he said.
“And then when the federal government gives you money, then there’s all these strings attached. Next thing, you know, they’re jamming critical race theory down your throat and trying to indoctrinate your kids and require vaccines.”
Brnovich expressed disappointment that Obamacare, the program enacted in 2010, has not been repealed. Rescinding the law was a conservative policy priority for years, but the goal has largely been abandoned by congressional Republicans, who, in a matter of days, will regain the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Ronald Reagan used to say that there is no more permanent thing than a temporary government program,” Brnovich said.
“The reality is if you let a bully in your front door, next day he’s on your porch, the day after that, he’s going to be shacking up with your wife. And so, when you … let the federal government do something, it is almost impossible to roll it back.
“And this is one of the great frustrations so many people have. Republicans, they complain all the time [and] campaigned on—we’re going to make government smaller, and then they get to Washington. And then they argue about, oh, whether we’re going to have a 2 or 4 or a 6 percent increase in the budget of these agencies,” he said.
“I worry that every day that the federal government does something, or crowds out the private sector, or takes on responsibilities … inconsistent with traditional notions of federalism, and inconsistent with what the Constitution provides as far as powers of the federal government, I worry that we’re losing our freedom and liberty.
There is an old saying that “if you drop a frog in boiling water, he’ll jump out right away. But if you put a frog in water and slowly turn up the temperature, it’ll eventually boil to death because he won’t notice the temperature change,” Brnovich said.
“But I just worry that at some point in this country, as we see so much authority [shift] to the federal government, whether it’s health care, whether it’s education, whether it’s social welfare programs, is you see … the federal government becomes bigger and bigger, it becomes bloated, it becomes unresponsive. And then you end up with this permanent administrative state, which jeopardizes all of our freedoms and liberties.
“And so I don’t know what the future holds. I just know that my entire career, and especially at the AG’s office, I have fought for the Constitution and the rule of law. And I guess it’s going to be up to some other folks now to fight those fights.”
Elon Musk, Big Tech and Censorship
More needs to be done to combat Big Tech’s grip over the public conversation, he said.
Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter “is a good development,” Brnovich said.
Musk has been working for months to undo Twitter’s censorship policies and to expose how previous management allegedly sabotaged Republicans, including then-President Donald Trump, tried to cover up the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, and worked to suppress information about COVID-19 that ran counter to official, government-approved narratives.
The problem, from a “principled conservative” perspective, is that media outlets are “all controlled by the left, higher education establishment’s controlled by the left, and social media was pretty much controlled by the left till Elon Musk came around.”
Brnovich noted that as attorney general, he filed a lawsuit in state court against Google that led to an $85 million settlement in October 2022, which he said was “the highest in the country against Google.” The lawsuit alleged that Google used deceit to obtain users’ location data and, in turn, generated billions of dollars in profit.
At the time, his office said the lawsuit was one of the largest consumer fraud suits in Arizona’s history and that “the settlement represents the largest amount per capita the internet giant has paid in a privacy and consumer-fraud lawsuit of this kind.”
“Tech companies don’t have enough skin in the game, and it’s one of the reasons why I feel we should repeal the protections they get as far as civil liability, and I think that would cause them to be a lot more facially neutral,” he told The Epoch Times in the interview.
Repealing Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 would be a step in the right direction, Brnovich said.
The law generally prevents internet platforms and internet service providers from being held liable for what users say on them. Tech industry defenders such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation say the law provides “broad protection that has allowed innovation and free speech online to flourish,” but critics say it has given social media platforms free rein to censor disfavored viewpoints.
“Why is it that Big Tech and Big Pharma are the only people immune to lawsuits from the plaintiffs’ lawyers? Look, I’m not a huge fan of plaintiffs’ lawyers … but the reality is that if you don’t have any skin in the game, if you don’t have any liability, whether you’re a so-called vaccine manufacturer or a Big Tech company, that means that you have no accountability, because … the federal government, and the bureaucrats, essentially, are going to give them a free pass.”
‘Marxist’ Indoctrination in Schools
“The reality is that there are a lot of institutions, not just Big Tech, [also] higher education, that are essentially breeding grounds for the far left,” he said.
“The reality is, is if you’re a student, or you have a child, or grandchild that’s a student at a public university, if they’re in the social sciences, they are more likely to be … taught by a Marxist than a conservative,” Brnovich said.
“There’s a whole generation of people that are being indoctrinated by the higher education establishment and so my concern is—going back to my frog analogy—is that, if generations continue to be indoctrinated that the federal government could tell them what’s safe, the federal government is going to provide everything for them, then they may not care as much about their loss of freedom of speech—but we still do.”
Fighting ESG and Environmental Zealotry
Brnovich said he was “very proud” in March 2021 to have signed Arizona up for a lawsuit joined by 11 other states against the Biden administration over the “social cost” of greenhouse gases for use in the federal agency rulemaking process.
The lawsuit stated that an executive order requiring officials to calculate the “social cost of greenhouse gases” was unconstitutional because President Joe Biden was exercising a “quintessentially legislative action that falls within Congress’s exclusive authority.” The Biden edict directed a group of officials from various agencies to try to calculate the impact on society of emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Brnovich said his perspective and stance against today’s radical environmentalism were shaped by the experience of his parents, who went through World War II and escaped communism in the former Yugoslavia.
“When the Soviet Union collapsed, communism didn’t die, it’s just all those folks ended up in the environmental movement. And so, so much of what we’re seeing [in] the environmental movement is really about controlling your lives,” Brnovich said.
“And at the end of the day, it’s sad that the United States, in just a couple of years under the Biden administration, went from being a net exporter of energy, gas, and oil, to now having to beg Saudi Arabia to increase output,” he said.
“And so I think that the left’s hypocrisy is on full display when it comes to climate change and ESG because that is all about controlling our lives and having people more dependent on the government for their basic needs and necessities.”
ESG refers to the environmental, social, and governance movement in which activists and politicians try to force companies to put the goals of the environmental movement ahead of the normal corporate goal of turning a profit. ESG critics such as Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) say this “investing phenomenon is undercutting the core purpose of financial institutions, jeopardizing the economic security of investors, politicizing our capital markets and private enterprises, and threatening the stability of our energy supply.”
“Right now, a lot of the focus of the ESG movement has been on energy, which obviously leads to higher fuel prices, oil prices, which affects everything from the cost of groceries at your store, how much you pay to get to work and to fuel up your car, even making things like plastics or fertilizers,” Brnovich said.
“But don’t be mistaken. They’re coming for guns next. And they’re going to use that to control corporate boardrooms, to make sure that they’re woke, and really undermine American productivity.”
Reviving Death Penalty
Brnovich said he is proud that after years of not executing people who have been sentenced to death, the state resumed capital punishment during his time in office. In 2019, he settled a lawsuit over execution protocols, which allowed executions to resume.
“I was a federal prosecutor, and I believe that every prosecutor has a solemn responsibility to speak on behalf of all victims, especially those that can’t speak for themselves,” he said.
“And to me, ensuring that justice is done for people that commit the ultimate crimes is one of the most solemn responsibilities I have as the attorney general. And so it annoys me and bothers me that when so many folks focus on these defendants and even the method of execution,” he said.
“But the bottom line is that I made a promise to Arizona voters when I was running that those who commit the ultimate crime will get the ultimate punishment. And I’m going to continue to fight every single day that I’m in the office to ensure that victims and their families get justice and that they get closure.”
After eight years without executions in the state, Arizona put three individuals to death in 2022.
This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Jan. 2, 2023, in The Epoch Times.