Grenade throwers who disliked a Virginia district court judge's ruling for the state in its suit against the federal government's health care law are trying to create controversy about the judge where none exists, Virginia's attorney general said Sunday.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said some "lefty blogs" are trying to stir up discord over an alleged conflict of interest by Judge Henry E. Hudson, who ruled last week that the individual mandate in President Obama's signature domestic initiative is unconstitutional.
Shortly after Hudson delivered his ruling last week, critics called into question Hudson's impartiality since Hudson is a partial owner of Campaign Solutions, a political consulting company that Cuccinelli hired during his 2009 attorney general bid.
"That grenade came over the wall for some lefty blogs hours after the judge ruled that the United States couldn't get our case dismissed, well that's shocking timing on that," Cuccinelli told Fox News.
Cuccinelli added that the supposed conflict of interest is merely a reaction by opponents to the health care ruling.
"It's just kind of a cheap shot from the left. They're upset with this guy now. You notice they didn't do it before he ruled on anything. It only comes in after the fact," he said
Critics first took note of Hudson's holdings last July. According to disclosure reports, he owns a $15,000-$50,000 stake in Campaign Solutions, which has been hired by several Republican candidates who've run their campaigns in part on defeating the new health care law. Reports show the judge made between $32,000 and $103,000 in profits from the company between 2003-2008.
The Huffington Post reported in July that Campaign Solutions issued a statement noting that Hudson has owned stock in the company since before he became a judge and since joining the federal bench has fully disclosed his stock ownership in the company.
"He is a passive investor only, has no knowledge of the day to day operations of the firm, and has never discussed any aspect of the business with any official of the company," the Huffington Post reported the firm saying.
Cuccinelli said Hudson never was involved in the company's operations nor did Cuccinelli know about his ownership stake when he hired the firm in 2009.
"The judge invested in a company started by friends of his down the street from where he lived at the time. He has never known who their clients were. We didn't know he was a part owner," Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli said his campaign used Campaign Solutions for "processing credit cards ... and that kind of thing," but he has since stopped contracting with the firm.
"We didn't even spend $10,000 with the company but didn't even know he was an owner of any kind. So, he's been totally insulated from that as many judges are with their holdings in various entities that they may own and really have no bearing on the case," he said.
Some critics acknowledge that even if Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, were not a partial owner of Campaign Solutions, he likely would've ruled the same way on the case even though two judges appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton ruled the individual mandate did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose state is now one of nearly two dozen with court cases against the law, said the distinction is not about politics but about "differences in the federal judiciary about interpreting the United States Constitution."
"The question is whether or not the United States Congress, under the tax and spend clause or the Commerce Clause, can force a citizen in Virginia or any other state to buy a good or a service -- in this case, a health insurance policy and, if you don't, to exact a penalty, a fine," McDonnell told "Fox News Sunday."
"And Judge Hudson -- and this is the first case brought by a state, Virginia. The other cases were private sector folks that brought the actions. He said that no, choosing to not participate in commerce -- that is, to not buy an insurance policy -- is not commerce. And in fact, the fine that's enacted is a penalty, not a tax, and so Congress can't do it," he continued.
McDonnell and Cuccinelli say Virginia wants to push the case directly to the Supreme Court -- rather than through the circuit court as the Justice Department wishes -- because to take it through the entire judicial process adds nothing to the debate but merely costs the states money.
For Virginia, that's an estimated $20 million just to prepare for the law's enactment in 2014, not its execution.
"There's three years plus of work that we need to do to implement health care exchanges and all these other things that cost tens of billions of dollars -- millions of dollars to the states. So that's why I think this thing needs to get done," McDonnell said.
Cuccinelli said the only ruling that ultimately matters is the Supreme Court's. He expressed optimism the court would rule for the state.
"By the end of January, with the elections last month, we will have over half of the states suing as parties, as plaintiffs their own federal government over the same issue, the individual mandate. I am unaware of that ever happening before in history, which really speaks to how far overreaching the federal government is here," he said.