Republican Todd Rokita On Attorney General's Office, Health Care And Police Reform
There’s a brighter-than-usual spotlight on the race for Indiana Attorney General this year, mostly because of a person who’s not in the race – the current AG Curtis Hill. Hill’s sexual misconduct while in office led to Republicans choosing a new person to face off against Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel.
Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith sat down with the Republican candidate, Todd Rokita, to talk about the race’s big issues and how he’d approach the job differently than its current occupant.
Brandon Smith: How would you run the office differently in the next four years than it has the last four years?
Todd Rokita: Well, I would hope that there wouldn’t be a distraction. And you can’t deny the fact that there’s obviously a lot of distraction in the office when the head of your office is under such a cloud. And then, like I did when I was secretary of state, have a culture in the office that allows people to serve with servant’s hearts. Being a good counsel to the General Assembly, good counsel to the governor and protecting the people of Indiana when it comes to their consumer decisions and how they’re interacted with with businesses around the state.
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Smith: Indiana’s currently involved with – led by Curtis Hill – a lawsuit that seeks to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Would you want to continue Indiana’s involvement in that lawsuit and why would that be a good thing for the country and for the state?
Rokita: I would keep us in that lawsuit to make sure our points as a state were being made. I believe – and it’s been proven now, with nearly a decade of Obamacare under our belts – that the promises haven’t been kept. Consider the Healthy Indiana Plan; that predated Obamacare. We created this program to make sure that those that found themselves in a gap–
Smith: But isn’t the expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan funded by the Affordable Care Act?
Rokita: Correct. That’s correct but that doesn’t mean the funding has to go away, just the bad policies.
Smith: Inherent in the Affordable Care Act are protections for those with pre-existing conditions, the lifetime caps. How do you say, ‘Well, I like that, but I’m also fighting to get rid of this law?’
Rokita: Right, so, to be clear, I am for covering people with pre-existing conditions. And although the attorney general’s office isn’t a law-making office – we’re not the legislature – but I would be for and would help the General Assembly make sure that pre-existing conditions were covered.
Smith: The issue that’s seemingly taken over all of our lives the last several months, COVID-19 – how does the attorney general’s office and how would it under your leadership intersect in addressing the pandemic?
Rokita: Oh, several different ways and it’s one of the main reasons I’m running. Lot of scam artists will be coming out; a lot of fraud will be out there. I’m the only one in this race that has a record of defending Indiana voters and taxpayers against fraudulent activity. When I was secretary of state, we got 300 years of jail time for white collar criminals. Also, we need to make this economy grow as quickly as we can. So, what does the attorney general have to do with economic development? Well, a lot, by virtue of protecting first against federal government regulatory overreach. And then even if our state agencies got out of hand, in terms of stopping the economy from coming back and growing.
Smith: What role would you foresee playing in the debate around police reform and what police reform do you think is needed in Indiana?
Rokita: The first question we have to ask is what’s being taught right now? 'Oh, reform this and reform that and don’t do this anymore but do this all the time' – that’s just a political decision that’s being made because of a crisis at hand. What we really ought to do if we want good policing is first of all, listen to our police officers. Find out what they’re being taught right now. Once we understand that as leaders in a community, then we can decide together, with input from all stakeholders – neighborhood associations, community groups, the police officers, of course, themselves and their leadership.
Smith: I think a lot of Hoosiers don’t know exactly what the attorney general does. What is the most important duty of that office, in your mind?
Rokita: Look, at the end of the day, we have got to protect people. That’s what government is for. And protect people has several different meanings – it’s protecting them from consumer fraud and things like that that the attorney general does but it also means protecting their liberty. It also means protecting their rights.