Attorney General George Jepsen, after keeping a markedly lower profile than his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, is taking a leadership role in the National Association of Attorneys General, a group that often is a bipartisan catalyst for coordinating major legal action by the states.
Jepsen, 59, was named Friday as the vice president of the group, an office that would automatically elevate him to president in June 2016, assuming the first-term Democrat wins a second four-year term this fall.
Connecticut has a played a leading role under Jepsen in major multi-state litigation against the rating agency, Standard & Poors, over public pension fund losses, and he helped negotiate settlements over improper mortgage foreclosures and price-fixing by sellers of e-books.
“The bottom line is when something bad is going on in Florida and Texas and Nebraska and New Jersey, it’s probably going on in Connecticut, too,” Jepsen said. “It’s worked really well to forge these national coalitions.”
Jepsen is a former state Senate majority leader and Connecticut Democratic state chairman, but he said the attorneys general association stands out for its ability to foster bipartisan cooperation.
“Oddly enough, one of the most important aspects of the job, especially at this time of an incredibly dysfunctional national government and a lack of bipartisanship at the national level, is to maintain the bipartisan culture of NAAG,” Jepsen said.
The state attorneys general have split along partisan lines on major issues, notably challenges to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and gun-control measures. As a state senator, Jepsen played a leading role in passing the state’s original ban on weapons defined as assault-weapons.
“You’ve identified two significant issues with a pretty clear split between Democratic and Republican attorneys general,” Jepsen said during an interview. “It’s tough to identify many more issues beyond that. On most issues, there’s not a partisan split.”
But the individual attorneys general are committed to maintaining productive relationships, even when there are sharp political differences, he said.
“It underscores what I was talking about,” Jepsen said. “You want to be respectful of differences of opinion. You want to create a culture where people can disagree with each other on some issues without destroying your capacity to work together in a collegial way on other issues.”
Jepsen was chosen for the leadership post at a NAAG conference that ended Thursday night in Michigan.