Prior to 2023, Idaho’s Attorneys General handled the State’s legal business without outside entanglements. During his first year in office, Raul Labrador has changed that non-interference policy. He has intertwined his chosen political priorities with out-of-state legal partners that have their own ideological axes to grind. One partner is a dark-money-funded group, Alliance Defending Freedom, that gives Idaho “free” legal representation. Another partner is a high-priced Washington law firm, Cooper & Kirk, that is currently charging Idaho taxpayers a rate of $495 per hour.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Christian nationalist group that advances the most extreme anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ positions. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which took down the Aryan Nations and its Church of Jesus Christ Christian in Kootenai County in 2000, has listed ADF as a hate group. ADF and Labrador have teamed up in three separate cases, so far. They are defending Idaho’s law criminalizing emergency room medical care for pregnant women, defending the Legislature’s transgender bathroom law and have meddled in a Washington State abortion pill case.
Labrador has signed rather one-sided agreements with ADF to obtain their free legal help. If the State and ADF must pay the other side’s attorney fees, ADF is off the hook and the Idaho pays. If the other side must pay, the attorney fees are divided between the State and ADF. The State must consult with ADF in communicating with the media and is obligated to put out favorable publicity for ADF. Labrador is effectively giving Idaho’s stamp of approval to this extreme-right legal behemoth, which has 100 staff attorneys, about 5,000 lawyers in its network and nearly $100 million in revenues.
One other item of interest is that Lincoln Wilson, who served in Labrador’s office until October, is now ADF’s representative in Idaho. Another lawyer, Theo Wold, who served as Labrador’s much ballyhooed Solicitor General, also left the office in October. Wold campaigned hard for Labrador’s election in 2022 and was one of his first hires. A former official in the Trump White House, Wold is a Christian nationalist and supporter of the Great Replacement conspiracy. Although he is gone from Labrador’s office, he will not soon be forgotten. His wife, Megan, is a member of the Washington law firm that is getting Idaho tax dollars to advance Labrador’s personal political agenda.
Ms. Wold’s firm, Cooper & Kirk (C&K), is the go-to firm for extremist dark-money-funded clients. The firm has partnered with Labrador on at least two cases, so far. On July 11, Lincoln Wilson signed a contract with the firm to help in defending the new law criminalizing medical care for transgender youth. State taxpayers will be paying Wold’s firm an hourly rate of $495 per hour for lawyers and $80 for non-lawyers. Now that Wilson has left the AG’s office, ADF and C&K will be doing the kind of work that previous Idaho Attorneys General handled with staff attorneys.
The federal district court in Idaho found on December 26 that the transgender ban violated the U.S. Constitution and that the State would likely lose the case at trial. That means the case will go to trial, ensuring more fees for C&K. Many of us predicted this outcome and one wonders why Labrador, who claimed he would give the Legislature the best legal advice so as to avoid losing cases, did not see this result coming. Needless to say, Labrador blamed the judge, not bad lawyering, for his loss.
C&K contracted again with Labrador in November to look over a motion to the U.S. Supreme Court that seeks to allow Idaho to enforce the strict prohibition against emergency maternal care, after he lost in the federal circuit court. C&K will get $10,000 for just reviewing his motion. The Wolds are doing well at the expense of Idaho taxpayers.
Idaho should not allow its good name to be used for advancing the political or financial interests of out-of-state lawyers. Past practice in the Attorney General’s office is not to mix political agendas with the state’s legal business. The partnerships Labrador has formed with ADL and C&K lead one to wonder whose agenda is being served. All of these contracts seek to place documentation beyond the reach of Idaho’s public records law, so it may be tough to discover that important information.