AG Andrea Campbell picks her targets
Five months in, a delicate balance between advocacy and 'knowing our lane'
ATTORNEY GENERAL Andrea Campbell has waded into some politically thorny topics so far, trying to balance an advocacy lens as “the people’s lawyer” with the practical demands of being “top cop.”
A former city councilor and Boston mayoral hopeful whose legal background focused on education and employment, Campbell is about five months into the attorney general job, replacing now-governor Maura Healey, who backed her for the post. She ran on an equity platform that extended from her years on the council, pledging to work to restore faith in the criminal justice system and put state muscle into protecting vulnerable populations and their interests.
Practically, that’s turned out to be complicated.
She pledged on the campaign trail to end qualified immunity, a legal concept that protects government officials, including law enforcement, from civil suits unless an action violates certain clearly established rights.
Though Campbell still opposes qualified immunity on principle, her position has taken a distinct turn for the diplomatic, acknowledging the need to preserve a relationship with members of law enforcement on which the office relies.
“My position on qualified immunity in the context of public safety is just that if someone has abused their power, maybe resulting in death, or some other significant harm to someone, or community or family, they should be held accountable, like anybody else. No one is above the law,” she said. “And I’m able to explain that in a thoughtful way to anyone who’s in law enforcement.”
She may be the top law enforcement officer, but she also appreciates her office’s role as a “policy shop.” Before the CommonWealth interview, Campbell said, she testified on Beacon Hill in favor of several housing protections, including her support for the latest version of the HOMES Act, which would allow people who have been evicted to seal those records.
But she is still keeping some distance from the question of moving the state lottery into the world of online gaming.
Though Campbell is “not opposed” to an online lottery generally, she harbors serious concerns about data mining, targeting young people, and what seems to be the basic structure of online gambling. “I am opposed to it when you’re encouraging folks to play specific bets, knowing it’s a losing bet, when the odds are not in their favor, and someone is financially benefiting from that,” she said.
The fate of an online lottery is still in limbo, included in the House’s final budget but not the Senate’s. Campbell says she is raising alarm bells as her office did after online sports betting was legalized, but won’t be pushing against its legalization.
Campbell is leaning on the office’s institutional expertise when it comes to energy policy. Of the ongoing dust-up with Avangrid, which decided not to honor the offshore wind agreement it negotiated last year with three Massachusetts utilities and has reportedly defaulted on a provision in its offshore wind power purchase agreement, Campbell said her office is closely monitoring the question.
The AG’s Energy and Environment Bureau was helmed during Healey’s tenure by Rebecca Tepper, now head of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. At the time, Healey and Tepper opposed modifying Avangrid’s contracts, and were working earlier this year to bring Avangrid back on board while warning about terminating the contract and trying to participate in the next wind farm procurement.“We’re following and listening to what the conversation is coming out of the State House, including the Legislature, because that will determine in many ways what the RFP should look like,” Campbell said. “We do take seriously, though, when you sign up to have a contract with the state, that you should not only acknowledge it, but also adhere to it just like anybody else.”