A.G. candidate McMullen has Navy, business background
ST. ALBANS — Despite his wealth and Harvard degrees, Jack McMullen says he came from humble origins.
McMullen is the Republican challenger to Democratic Attorney General William Sorrell in this November’s General Election.
McMullen’s father suffered rheumatic fever as a child, leaving him with fragile health throughout his life. As one of five children, McMullen, who is from Long Island, went to work at 11.
“Our family was — what’s the technical term — poor,” said McMullen.
He attended Columbia University on a Navy scholarship, then served as an officer on Admiral Hyman Rickover’s staff. Rickover was in charge of the development of nuclear power for use by the Navy and a significant figure in his day.
Following his time in the Navy, McMullen went to business and law schools at Harvard on scholarships.
“I was fortunate in my career,” said McMullen. “I applied what I learned and earned some money.”
McMullen sees the country as facing a choice: “Will we go down the path to a European social democracy or return to the founding values,” he said.
After Harvard, he went to work at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which also employed another 2012 Republican candidate — Mitt Romney. Romney was only at BCG for about a year before departing to work for a former BCG partner at Bain Consulting. Romney then went on to form Bain Capital.
McMullen defended private equity firms, particularly Bain Capital. “A lot of these companies (that private equity firms buy) were on their way out of existence,” said McMullen. By firing 30 percent of the employees, private equity firms are able to save the jobs of the remaining 70 percent, he claimed.
Like Romney, McMullen left BCG and started his own consulting company, ultimately employing 40 people. His focus became working with high tech firms, and at one point he saw his wealth increase in one year more than it had in the several previous years combined as a result of the growth of high tech firms.
His business experience puts him in a position to understand how businesses and capital markets work, something the current attorney general lacks, McMullen argued.
McMullen pointed to Atty. Gen. William Sorrell’s handling of Cabot Creamery as an example. Because only 50 percent of the milk Cabot was using to make butter came from Vermont, Sorrell sent his staff to serve papers on the company. The law requires 75 percent Vermont content.
As a result, Cabot stopped calling their butter a Vermont product.
McMullen first questioned why Sorrell was looking at Cabot instead of focusing on more serious problems, and then why Sorrell didn’t simply meet with the company to discuss the situation or propose a modification to the content law, Sorrell himself had originally proposed.
“Citizens deserve protection from blatant falsehood,” said McMullen. However, in this instance, Cabot is a Vermont company, founded in Vermont, and whose image is closely associated with Vermont, argued McMullen.
McMullen, like Sorrell’s primary challenger Chittenden County state’s attorney T.J. Donovan, was critical of Sorrell’s lack of attention to the rise of prescription drug abuse in Vermont.
“In the past 16 years or so there’s been a dramatic increase in drug-driven crime in Vermont,” said McMullen. During that time the attorney general’s office has largely focused on civil issues, said McMullen.
The attorney general could convene a statewide task force including prosecutors, law enforcement and the judiciary, said McMullen. That task force could identify “hot spots” and create a uniform drug policy across the state, he suggested.
McMullen believes violent criminals, drug dealers and egregious repeat offenders should be sent to prison, but supports treatment for the rest. “If you’re not dealing with violent offenders… send them straight to treatment,” said McMullen, citing a Maple Leaf Farm study showing that offenders who went straight to treatment were more likely to remain drug free after treatment than offenders who went to prison before receiving treatment.
“It’s good to turn a life around… but it’s also good for society,” said McMullen. According to Maple Leaf Farm, one dollar invested in treatment saves $11.
McMullen said he would also meet with attorneys general of neighboring states to discuss the possibility of returning criminals to their home jurisdictions for incarceration. Currently, when someone from New York commits a crime in Vermont that person is imprisoned in Vermont and then must stay in Vermont while on parole.
Returning the criminals to their home jurisdictions would get them out of the state. McMullen acknowledged that the other attorneys general might not have a strong reason to agree to this plan, but said it was still worth pursuing.
McMullen was also critical of Sorrell’s decision not to prosecute the leaders of Burlington Telecom. As part of Burlington Telecom’s certificate of public good, the Public Service Board limited the ability of the publicly owned company to borrow money and said it could not use taxpayer funds, only fees paid by its users.
However, $17 million in taxpayer funds went into Burlington Telecom, said McMullen. “If you blatantly ignore instructions, something should happen to you,” said McMullen.
In McMullen’s view, Sorrell could also have done a better job of advising the Vermont Legislature on legislation in order to avoid legal challenges to Vermont’s laws. “You want to get ahead of problems, not want until problems occur and then clean up the mess with litigation,” said McMullen.
“Hard earned taxpayer money has been wasted … on these crazy appeals of unconstitutional laws,” said McMullen.
If elected, McMullen said one of his first tasks would be an audit of the attorney general’s office. He would also focus on the 76 attorneys for the state who work out of various state agencies. “Wouldn’t we like to know what these folks are doing?” asked McMullen.
He also wanted to know who they answer to — the attorney general or the heads of the agencies to which they’re assigned — and who is providing direction and supervision. McMullen questioned whether those attorneys might end up acting at cross purposes and suggested there is a need for a unified legal framework to guide the work of the state’s many attorneys.