Iowa Public Television

 

State Attorney General Tom Miller

posted on December 28, 2005

Borg: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, TOP PRIORITY TOPICS WHEN IOWA'S LEGISLATURE RECONVENES. PERSPECTIVE FROM STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL TOM MILLER ON THIS EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS."

FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, DECEMBER 23 EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS." HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: IT'S CLOSER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK. JUST TWO WEEKS FROM NEXT MONDAY, THE SECOND SESSION OF IOWA'S 81ST GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES AT THE STATEHOUSE. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT EMERGING AS A PRIORITY TOPIC. THE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS HAS HIGHLIGHTING LEGISLATION REINSTATING THE DEATH PENALTY ON THE AGENDA. OTHER ISSUES INCLUDE WHAT TO DO ABOUT IOWA'S GROWING PRISON POPULATION AND THE CALL BY SOME FOR A NEW PENITENTIARY AT FORT MADISON. THOSE AND OTHER ISSUES DIRECTLY AFFECT IOWA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL. TOM MILLER IS IN HIS SIXTH FOUR-YEAR TERM AS IOWA'S TOP LEGAL OFFICIAL, SERVING FROM 1978 THROUGH 1990, AND THEN BACK IN OFFICE AGAIN IN 1995 TILL THE PRESENT TIME. AND HE'S BEEN A FREQUENT "IOWA PRESS" GUEST DURING THE PAST QUARTER CENTURY, TOM.

Miller: IT SOUNDS LIKE A LONG TIME. IT CAN'T BE THAT LONG.

Borg: NICE TO HAVE YOU BACK --

Miller: VERY NICE TO BE HERE ON YOUR SHOW.

Borg: THANK YOU. ACROSS THE "IOWA PRESS" TABLE: "DES MOINES REGISTER" POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND "ASSOCIATED PRESS" SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: GENERAL MILLER, THE LEGISLATURE IS LOOMING. SIMPLE QUESTION: WHAT IS THAT YOU'RE GOING TO ASK THIS LEGISLATURE TO DO FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

Miller: THERE ARE THREE THINGS THAT ARE ON OUR PRIORITY LIST. THE FIRST AND BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT IS TO EXPAND DRUG TREATMENT IN OUR STATE. I THINK THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING, THE MOST EFFECTIVE THING WE CAN DO IF WE WANT TO FIGHT CRIME IS TO ADEQUATELY FUND DRUG TREATMENT, AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY. OVERWHELMINGLY CRIMES ARE COMMITTED, EITHER DRUG CRIMES OR DEFEAT A DRUG PROBLEM -- CRIMES ARE JUST 70, 80 PERCENT THROUGHOUT THE STATE RELATED TO DRUGS. THERE'S THREE WAYS TO DEAL WITH DRUGS AND YOU HAVE TO DO THEM ALL AND YOU HAVE TO DO THEM WELL TO MAKE IT WORK. ONE IS TO DEAL WITH THE DEMAND SIDE. I THINK WE DO A PRETTY GOOD JOB OF THAT THROUGH THE EDUCATION. THE GOVERNOR IN HIS FIRST TERM WAS PARTICULARLY GOOD AT THAT. ONE IS ENFORCEMENT, LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROSECUTION. AND I THINK THE STATE DOES A GOOD JOB OF THAT. THE THIRD IS DRUG TREATMENT. WE'VE FALLEN DOWN THERE. THE LEGISLATURE, IN FACT, HAS FAILED US IN TERMS OF THEIR FUNDING OF DRUG TREATMENT. WE SPENT 10 PERCENT LESS THIS YEAR THAN WE DID IN 2001.

Yepsen: WHAT ARE THE OTHER --

Miller: 13 PERCENT LESS.

Glover: WHAT ARE THE OTHER TWO PRIORITIES?

Miller: THE OTHER TWO PRIORITIES WOULD BE IN THE CIVIL AREA. THEY WOULD DEAL WITH BANNING THESE AWFUL CAR TITLE LOANS WHERE PEOPLE PAY 300 PERCENT INTEREST AND HAVE THEIR CAR IN JEOPARDY AS WELL AS COLLATERAL. THE OTHER IS TO PROVIDE A PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION IN CONSUMER CASES, USING OUR CONSUMER FRAUD LAW LIKE IS DONE IN ALL THE OTHER 49 STATES.

Yepsen: SEX OFFENDER ISSUES ARE ON THE FRONT PLATE IN IOWA. A LOT OF TALK ABOUT THAT. WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD DO ABOUT SEX OFFENDER ISSUES?

Miller: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, I THINK WE HAVE TO TAKE A BROAD VIEW OF IT. WE START FROM THE PROPOSITION THAT CHILDREN ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN OUR STATE, AND WE WANT TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN. THE FIRST THING WE DO AND I THINK THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THE SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR LAW THAT OUR OFFICE IMPLEMENTS. THAT HAS TAKEN 50 -- THE WORST OF THE WORST, THE MOST DANGEROUS, AND KEPT THEM IN CONFINEMENT UNTIL WE CAN EXPECT THEM TO FOLLOW THE LAW AND NOT ABUSE CHILDREN. THEN WE DID THE ADDITIONAL PENALTIES FOR SEXUAL ABUSE. THEY WERE STRENGTHENED OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS. THERE'S THE SEXUAL -- SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY AND THE 2,000 FEET AND NOW SOME MONITORING. SO I THINK THEY ALL CONTRIBUTE. THEY ALL HELP. THE QUESTION IS WHAT MORE CAN WE DO.

Yepsen: RIGHT.

Miller: AND THERE I THINK WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT WHAT WOULD BE MOST EFFECTIVE. AND FOR ME I THINK IT'S THAT SECOND STAGE OF PEOPLE THAT ARE DANGEROUS. SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR FIRST. THEN MAYBE THE SECOND GROUP. MAYBE WE DO MORE EXTENSIVE MONITORING WITH THEM. WE SORT OF FOCUS ON THEM RATHER THAN THE WHOLE BROAD GROUP THAT IS IN PLAY IN THE 2,000 FEET.

Yepsen: WHAT'S YOUR FEELING ABOUT THE 2,000-FOOT LIMIT? IS IT A GOOD IDEA, BAD IDEA?

Miller: I THINK IT'S BASICALLY A GOOD IDEA, BUT I THINK IT'S NOT THE CURE-ALL. IT'S NOT AS EFFECTIVE PROBABLY AS IT SOUNDS. THESE OTHER THINGS ARE MORE EFFECTIVE. I THINK THAT IN THE WHOLE MIX -- AND I HAD A GOOD DISCUSSION WITH CHIEF MCCARTHY A COUPLE MONTHS BACK ABOUT WHY DON'T WE LOOK AT THE WHOLE MIX AND SEE WHICH WOULD BE MOST EFFECTIVE IN USING OUR RESOURCES.

Glover: AND THERE'S A BIG FIGHT LOOMING IN THE LEGISLATURE OVER CLASSIFYING SEX OFFENDERS, IN OTHER WORDS NOT TREATING ALL SEX OFFENDERS WITH THE SAME BRUSH. MAYBE YOU HAVE A NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD GUY WHO GETS INVOLVED WITH A SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRL MAY NOT BE AS BAD AS A THIRTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD MAN WHO RAPES A TWO-YEAR-OLD GIRL.

Miller: EXACTLY.

Glover: ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF DRAWING THOSE KIND OF DISTINCTIONS?

Miller: I THINK SO. I THINK WE CAN BE MORE EFFECTIVE AND TARGET OUR REMEDIES IF WE DO CLASSIFY SOME MORE. YOU KNOW, THERE'S COST IN CLASSIFYING, TO DO THAT, AND THE LEGISLATURE HAS BEEN, AT TIMES, RELUCTANT TO PAY THAT COST. I THINK THEY SHOULD. I THINK THAT OBVIOUSLY THE TWO THAT YOU DESCRIBED ARE DIFFERENT IN TERMS OF DANGEROUSNESS.

Yepsen: WELL, WILL YOU BE TALKING TO YOUR FELLOW DEMOCRATS IN THE LEGISLATURE? BECAUSE WHEN SENATOR KREIMAN WAS ON THIS SHOW AND WE ASKED HIM THAT QUESTION, HE SAID, NO, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GET INTO THIS. IT WAS THE REPUBLICANS WHO WERE SAYING MAYBE WE OUGHT TO HAVE SOME FLEXIBILITY IN THIS. IS YOUR PARTY SO SCARED OF LOOKING SOFT ON CRIME THAT THEY'RE NOT WILLING TO LOOK AT SOME OF THESE MORE INNOVATIVE APPROACHES THAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT?

Miller: YOU KNOW, I DON'T THINK SO, DAVID, AND OUR PARTY SHOULDN'T BE -- IT SHOULDN'T BE AFRAID OF BEING SOFT ON CRIME. I THINK THAT SOME MEMBERS OF OUR PARTY BACK IN THE '60S AND '70S WERE -- EXPOSED OURSELVES TO THAT SORT OF LABEL, AND IT STUCK WITH US FAR LONGER THAN IT SHOULD. I THINK OUR PARTY IS EQUALLY CONCERNED AS REPUBLICANS AND, INDEED OVER TIME, MORE INNOVATIVE THAN REPUBLICANS IN DEALING WITH CRIME. SO, NO, OUR PARTY SHOULDN'T THINK THAT WAY AT ALL.

Yepsen: ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT'S BEING DISCUSSED IS THE IDEA OF THESE SATELLITE GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEMS, ANKLE BRACELETS THAT YOU PUT ON SOME OF THESE -- ON SOME OF THESE MIDRANGE OFFENDERS THAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT SO WE KNOW WHERE THESE PEOPLE ARE. IS THAT A GOOD IDEA, BAD IDEA, FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Miller: I THINK -- I DON'T THINK WE KNOW. I WOULD BE FOR SORT OF A PILOT PROJECT ON SOME OF THE MOST DANGEROUS ONES THAT ARE OUT AND SEE HOW IT WORKS AND SEE HOW THE COST IS. I DEFINITELY THINK THAT WE SHOULD TREAT THE OFFENDERS DIFFERENTLY, THAT THERE'S A WIDE RANGE OF RESPONSIBILITY ON THEIR PART AND DANGEROUSNESS TO SOCIETY.

Glover: GENERAL MILLER, YOU ARE A PRACTICING POLITICIAN. YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH A FEW ELECTIONS, AS DEAN MENTIONED IN HIS INTRO. AND THIS LEGISLATURE IS VERY NARROWLY DIVIDED. HEADING INTO AN ELECTION YEAR, HOW DO YOU ADVISE YOUR FELLOW DEMOCRATS TO AVOID THE LABEL THAT DAVE BRINGS UP? HOW DO YOU SAY GO INTO THIS CLASSIFIED SEX OFFENDERS AND THEN THE FIRST TIME A SEX OFFENDER HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED AS SAFE, ASSAULT SOMEBODY, YOU'RE POLITICALLY VULNERABLE? HOW DO YOU ADVISE THEM TO HANDLE THE POLITICS OF THE SITUATION, WHICH IS VERY REAL?

Miller: MY ADVICE IS TO DO THE RIGHT THING, TO FIGURE OUT WHAT REALLY WORKS AND WHAT WILL REALLY HELP IOWANS THE MOST, AND GO AHEAD UNABASHEDLY WITH THAT. AND, YOU KNOW, KEEP AN EYE ON THE REPUBLICANS. AS DAVID INDICATED, THEY'RE WILLING TO GO DOWN THIS ROAD. IF YOU'RE GOING DOWN THE ROAD TOGETHER, THAT CERTAINLY HELPS.

Borg: I'D LIKE TO HAVE YOU GO BACK AND EXPAND ON YOUR DRUG TREATMENT IDEAS. YOU WERE VERY EMPHATIC IN SAYING THAT'S AT THE TOP OF YOUR LIST. WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU MAKE? FIRST OF ALL, YOU'VE SAID IT'S UNDERFUNDED. WELL, YOU HAVE TO ADMIT THAT'S NOT AN ATTRACTIVE SPENDING FOR LEGISLATORS AS IS PRESCHOOL SPENDING. BUT WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE? FIRST OF ALL, IT'S OPTIONAL NOW, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, FOR THOSE WHO ARE INCARCERATED BECAUSE OF DRUG OFFENSES.

Miller: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, LET ME SAY THAT IT SHOULD BE VERY ATTRACTIVE FOR LEGISLATORS, BECAUSE PROTECTING PEOPLE IN THEIR LIVES AND THEIR SAFETY AND THEIR HOMES SHOULD BE THE FIRST PRIORITY OF GOVERNMENT. AND THAT'S REALLY WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT. AS WE -- AS WE DO DRUG TREATMENT, DRUG CRIMES DROP 51 PERCENT. OVERALL CRIMES DROP 64 PERCENT FOR THOSE. SO IT REALLY, REALLY WORKS. AND IT WORKS BEST WHEN IT'S IN CONJUNCTION WITH ENFORCEMENT AND PROSECUTION. THAT'S WHY DRUG COURTS WHERE THEY EITHER SUCCEED IN THE DRUG TREATMENT OR THEY GO TO JAIL -- WHEN YOU HAVE THOSE TWO DYNAMICS WORKING TOGETHER, IT'S EVEN MORE SUCCESSFUL. SO THE LEGISLATURE REALLY HAS TO UNDERSTAND THAT IF THEY'RE INTERESTED IN CRIME, THIS PROGRAM IS ABOUT CRIME, THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING THEY CAN DO TO MAKE THIS STATE SAFER IS TO ADEQUATELY FUND DRUG TREATMENT. THE STUDIES INDICATE THAT. ALL THE DATA INDICATES THAT. THAT'S WHAT THEY NEED TO DO.

Yepsen: MR. MILLER, WE WERE TALKING ABOUT SEX OFFENDERS. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT TREATMENT OF SEX OFFENDERS. DOES IT WORK? YOU KNOW, A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T THINK TREATING SEX OFFENDERS WORKS, THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE HOPELESSLY SICK AND WE OUGHT TO JUST LOCK THEM UP AND FORGET ABOUT THEM. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT ISSUE OF ARE SEX OFFENDERS TREATABLE?

Miller: IT'S A VERY DIFFICULT QUESTION AND I'M NOT SURE WE KNOW THE ANSWER DEFINITIVELY, AS WE KNOW THE ANSWER, FOR INSTANCE, ON THE RESULTS OF DRUG TREATMENT GENERALLY IN TERMS OF CRIME. YOU KNOW, AS I MENTIONED, WE HAVE THE SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR PROGRAM. FIFTY PEOPLE ARE STILL LOCKED UP. NONE OF THEM HAVE GOTTEN OUT. NONE OF THE -- TREATMENT HASN'T SUCCEEDED WITH THOSE FIFTY. THERE ARE ONE OR TWO THAT -- THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCCEEDING AND GETTING OUT. OBVIOUSLY, WE'RE MONITORING THAT VERY CAREFULLY AND WILL, IF AND WHEN PEOPLE DO GET OUT. IN TERMS OF, AGAIN, THE RANGE THAT MIKE DESCRIBED OF SEX OFFENSES, THE LESS SERIOUS ONES, PEOPLE DO REHABILITATE THEMSELVES. SO AGAIN, WE'VE GOT TO SORT OF CONFINE WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT.

Glover: GENERAL MILLER, THE GOVERNOR HAS ASKED THE STATE BOARD OF CORRECTIONS TO MAKE A RECOMMENDATION ON WHETHER WE OUGHT TO REPLACE THE STATE'S MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON AT FORT MADISON. YOU DEAL WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT. YOU'RE THE STATE'S TOP LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. DO WE NEED TO REPLACE THAT PRISON?

Miller: I'M INTERESTED IN WHAT A STUDY SHOWS AND WHAT HE COMES BACK WITH. YOU KNOW, IT'S -- IT'S A REAL BALANCE. IT'S A VERY OLD FACILITY BUT HAS SERVED US WELL FOR A LONG TIME. WE HAD -- ON THE OTHER HAND, WE HAD THE TWO PEOPLE GET OUT, AND THAT'S A WAKE-UP CALL. THE COST OF BUILDING A NEW PRISON IS VERY SIGNIFICANT. WE HAVE A LOT OF DEMANDS ON OUR NEEDS. SO THERE'S A LOT OF BALANCING TO DO THERE. SO I LOOK TO THE STUDY. I'VE GOT AN OPEN MIND OF WHERE WE SHOULD GO ON THAT.

Glover: AND THE STATE'S DRUG CZAR, MARTIN VAN HAAFTEN, HAS RECOMMENDED THAT THE STATE CREATE A DRUG PRISON, A PRISON SPECIFICALLY FOR DRUG OFFENDERS. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT IDEA?

Miller: I THINK THAT'S A GREAT IDEA, AND THAT'S AN IDEA THAT'S BEEN AROUND FOR A FEW YEARS. AND THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT -- WHEN I TALKED ABOUT DRUG TREATMENT, THAT'S ONE OF THE WAYS THAT THE LEGISLATURE, MIKE, HAS LET US DOWN. THE BAR ASSOCIATION PLAYED A LEADERSHIP ROLE TWO, THREE, FOUR YEARS AGO AND GOT ALL THE PLAYERS TOGETHER IN TERMS OF STATE GOVERNMENT AND FOR THE PROSECUTORS AND LEGISLATORS. AND THAT WAS THE SINGLE BIGGEST IDEA. KNOXVILLE IS BEING PHASED DOWN BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. THERE'S AVAILABILITY THERE TO HAVE A PROGRAM -- A SIX-MONTH PROGRAM THAT'S PART PRISON AND PART TREATMENT FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE GOING IN FOR DRUG OFFENSES. THAT WOULD WORK VERY WELL. I'M VERY MUCH IN FAVOR OF THAT. THAT'S PART OF OUR OVERALL PROGRAM ON DRUG TREATMENT.

Yepsen: MR. MILLER, TWICE NOW YOU'VE TAKEN A SHOT AT THE LEGISLATURE HERE. I MEAN DOESN'T THE GOVERNOR BEAR SOME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THIS? HE PROPOSES BUDGETS AND PROGRAMS AND HE SIGNS INTO LAW ANYTHING THE LEGISLATURE DOES. ARE YOU CRITICAL AT ALL OF GOVERNOR VILSACK FOR NOT PUSHING SOME OF THESE IDEAS HARDER?

Miller: HE SHOULD HAVE AS WELL, YOU KNOW. WE DO IDENTIFY THE FUNDING PROCESS PRIMARILY WITH THE LEGISLATURE, BUT THE GOVERNOR HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TOO. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN -- HE SHOULD WE BEEN PUSHING FOR DRUG TREATMENT MORE AS WELL.

Yepsen: BACK ON MIKE'S QUESTION ABOUT THE PRISON. I UNDERSTAND YOU'RE NOT TAKING A POSITION ON WHETHER ONE OUGHT TO BE BUILT. BUT DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT WHERE A NEW ONE OUGHT TO BE BUILT IF IT'S BUILT? THE GOVERNOR IS SUGGESTING IT BE KEPT IN FORT MADISON, HIS OLD NEIGHBORHOOD AROUND MOUNT PLEASANT. DON'T YOU THINK IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO PUT A NEW STATE PRISON A LITTLE CLOSER TO THE STATE'S POPULATION CENTERS?

Miller: IT MIGHT. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A SKILLED WORK FORCE AT THE PRISON THAT'S LOCATED DOWN THERE THAT DO, I THINK, A VERY GOOD JOB. YOU KNOW, I'LL LEAVE IT TO THE LEGISLATURE AND THE GOVERNOR AS TO THE SITING OF THE PRISON. THAT'S MORE OF A LEGISLATIVE AND GUBERNATORIAL DECISION.

Yepsen: ANOTHER ISSUE THAT THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE ALWAYS SEEM TO DEAL WITH IS THE QUESTION OF SENTENCING LAWS AND SENTENCING REFORM AND WHETHER WE GET TOUGHER SENTENCES OR WEAKER SENTENCES AND ALL. DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT WHAT THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE OUGHT TO DO ABOUT OUR PRISON SENTENCES?

Miller: WELL, I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, IT'S -- TODAY'S REFORM IS TOMORROW'S PROBLEM IS PART OF WHAT THEY'RE DEALING WITH. IF YOU DO DETERMINATE SENTENCES, IT TENDS TO GET TOO RIGID, AND THEN THAT BECOMES SORT OF A SET OF ISSUES THAT NEEDS TO BE REFORMED. IF IT'S THE UNDETERMINATE, PEOPLE DON'T -- IT'S NOT VERY TRANSPARENT. SENTENCES AREN'T REALLY DECIDED LATER. IT'S, YOU KNOW -- IT'S A CONSTANT DEBATE. I THINK WHAT REALLY NEEDS TO BE DONE, THOUGH, IS FOR THE PUBLIC TO UNDERSTAND -- BE CLEAR TO THE PUBLIC HOW LONG PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SERVE. I THINK THAT THE -- BY AND LARGE SENTENCES IN IOWA ARE LONG ENOUGH. THEY'RE CONSISTENT WITH THE NATIONAL AVERAGE. SOME SENTENCES MAY GO UP OR DOWN, BUT I THINK GENERALLY IT'S IN THE RIGHT AREA.

Glover: LET'S LOOK SPECIFICALLY AT DRUG SENTENCES AND ENFORCEMENT OF DRUG LAWS. YOU'VE SAID DRUG TREATMENT IS GOING TO BE YOUR TOP PRIORITY AND THAT YOU'RE GOING TO ASK THE LEGISLATURE FOR MORE MONEY FOR THAT. SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE DO SOMETHING TO TOUGHEN THE STATE'S DRUG LAWS, SPECIFICALLY METHAMPHETAMINE?

Miller: I THINK -- I THINK -- I THINK THE LAWS ARE TOUGH ENOUGH BY AND LARGE. I THINK THAT OBVIOUSLY THE ENFORCEMENT AND THE TREATMENT HAVE TO FLOW. YOU KNOW, WE'VE -- WE'VE HAD THIS IDEA THAT IF WE INCREASE THE SENTENCE FOR DRUGS, PEOPLE ARE GOING TO STOP USING DRUGS. WE'VE DONE THAT REPEATEDLY. BUT THAT'S A CALCULUS THAT THE FOUR OF US WOULD MAKE. WE WOULDN'T BUY DRUGS, BECAUSE IT'S A HIGH SENTENCE. BUT IF YOU'RE ADDICTED, YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO GET AWAY WITH IT, THE HUGE SENTENCE REALLY DOESN'T DETER. WHAT REALLY WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IS A SIGNIFICANT SENTENCE PLUS DRUG TREATMENT, PLUS GOOD LAW ENFORCEMENT, WHICH I BELIEVE WE HAVE THE GOOD LAW ENFORCEMENT.

Glover: AND THE SECOND HALF OF THE QUESTION IS YOU'RE GOING TO BE COMING TO THE LEGISLATURE WITH YOUR HAND OUT AND WANTING SOME MORE MONEY FOR THIS KIND OF STUFF. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BE DOING THAT. HOW MUCH ARE YOU ASKING FOR?

Miller: WELL, WE'RE STILL IN THE PROCESS OF REFINING THAT, BUT IT'S PROBABLY GOING TO BE IN THE AREA OF $20- TO $25 MILLION. AND IT WILL INCLUDE SOME MONEY TO DEAL WITH PARENTS WHO ARE ADDICTED WHO HAVE THE CHILDREN AND GIVE THEM A PRIORITY ON THE WAITING LIST AND ALSO DO SOME WRAPAROUND SERVICES FOR THE KIDS, AGAIN, CONSISTENT WITH OUR VALUES IN IOWA BEING VERY CONCERNED ABOUT OUR KIDS, TO DEAL WITH PARENTS THAT ARE ADDICTED, TO TRY AND DEAL WITH THEM QUICKLY AND EFFECTIVELY AND REALIZE THAT THERE ARE OTHER SERVICES THAT ARE NEEDED FOR KIDS THAT ARE IN THAT SITUATION.

Borg: MIKE MENTIONED HANDS OUT. CHIEF JUSTICE LOUIS LAVORATO HISTORICALLY YEAR AFTER YEAR SAYS THE COURT SYSTEM IS UNDERFUNDED. YOU HAVE TO DEFEND -- DEPEND UPON THE COURT SYSTEM FOR WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS THAT YOU WOULD MAKE TO THE LEGISLATURE CONCERNING HOW TO IMPROVE THE COURT SYSTEM?

Miller: WE DO HAVE RECOMMENDATIONS -- EACH YEAR A SERIES OF RECOMMENDATIONS --

Borg: WHAT'S TOP?

Miller: -- REALLY DEALING WITH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. THE TOP THIS YEAR IS THE DRUG TREATMENT. AND, YOU KNOW, WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THE COURTS. THE CHIEF JUSTICE HAS SPOKEN OUT ON THESE ISSUES I THINK VERY WELL. I THINK THERE WAS ADDITIONAL MONEY LAST YEAR, WHICH IS GOOD. OBVIOUSLY SOME MORE MONEY IS NEEDED, BUT LAST YEAR I THINK THE LEGISLATURE DID MUCH BETTER IN TERMS OF FUNDING OF THE COURTS. AND THEY DESERVE MY PRAISE, DAVID, AS WELL AS THE GOVERNOR. HE SIGNED THE BILL.

Yepsen: NOW, WOULD ANY ATTORNEY GENERAL CRITICIZE ANY CHIEF JUSTICE? I DOUBT IT.

Miller: NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Yepsen: ONE ISSUE WHERE I HAVE HEARD SOME CRITICISM OF YOU AND YOUR OFFICE IS ON THIS WHOLE QUESTION OF WATER QUALITY AND HOG LOTS, THAT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE IS JUST NOT AGGRESSIVE ENOUGH IN ATTACKING POLLUTERS. YOU KNOW, YOU WORRY ABOUT SOME OLD LADY GETTING RIPPED OFF BY SOMEBODY WITH A ROOFING SCAM, WHICH IS FINE, BUT YOU'RE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT A MUCH LARGER ISSUE IN THIS STATE, WHICH IS THE CLEANLINESS OF OUR WATER. HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT, AND WHAT MORE DO YOU THINK THE STATE SHOULD BE DOING TO REGULATE THIS PROBLEM?

Miller: FIRST OF ALL, YOU KNOW, MY INITIAL RESPONSE IS OUR OFFICE DOES OUR JOB IN THAT AREA. WE'VE BROUGHT A NUMBER OF CASES. SOME CASES CAN'T GET TO US UNLESS THEY'RE REFERRED BY THE DNR. SOME OF THEM ARE -- A GOOD NUMBER ARE. AND WHEN WE GET A CASE, WE TAKE IT VERY SERIOUSLY. WE'VE GOT RECENTLY A $50,000 FINE AGAINST ONE OF THE OPERATORS IN WESTERN IOWA. WE, YOU KNOW, OF COURSE, GOT THE THREE STRIKES AGAINST DECOSTER A FEW YEARS BACK. WE DO ENFORCE THAT LAW.

Yepsen: SO WHAT MORE, THEN, WOULD YOU SAY THE STATE, THE GOVERNOR, AND THE LEGISLATURE NEED TO DO TO TOUGHEN THESE LAWS TO REGULATE -- MAKE SURE OUR WATER IS CLEAN? GIVE THEM SOME RECOMMENDATIONS.

Miller: WELL, I THINK THAT, YOU KNOW, THE WHOLE IDEA OF PROBABLY MORE TESTING. WE NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE RUNOFF GENERALLY, LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES. THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA HAS DONE SOME STUDIES ON THAT. I THINK WE NEED -- WE NEED TO DO MORE ABOUT -- NEED TO DO MORE IN THAT AREA TO --

Yepsen: SO DO YOU IN YOUR OFFICE HAVE THE MONEY THAT YOU NEED TO HOLD UP YOUR END OF THIS DEAL?

Miller: ON THAT END WE DO.

Yepsen: BECAUSE IT'S REAL EASY FOR THE GOVERNOR AND THE LEGISLATURE NOT TO FUND WATER TESTING AND THEN GO AROUND AND SAY, WELL, WE DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM.

Miller: YEAH. NO. IN TERMS OF OUR OWN ENFORCEMENT, WE DO HAVE ADEQUATE FUNDING.

Glover: AND, GENERAL MILLER, YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN SEVERAL LAWSUITS, ACTIONS INVOLVING OTHER STATES. I'M THINKING OF THE TOBACCO LAWSUITS AND MICROSOFT LAWSUITS. WHAT'S NEXT?

Miller: HOUSEHOLD CASE.

Glover: HOUSEHOLD CASE. WHAT'S NEXT?

Miller: WELL, WHAT WE'RE INVOLVED IN RIGHT NOW IS SOMETHING THAT I THINK IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCITING, BECAUSE I THINK -- I THINK WE'RE CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT ON LENDING IN THE SECONDARY MARKET, PREDATORY LENDING. WE BROUGHT THE HOUSEHOLD CASE A FEW YEARS AGO. I WAS THE LEAD ATTORNEY GENERAL ON THAT. THEY PAID $484 MILLION. THAT'S THE LARGEST RECOVERY IN ANY KIND OF CONSUMER RESTITUTION CASE, STATE OR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY. WE'VE JUST REACHED -- WE'RE IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH AMERIQUEST. THEY HAVE DISCLOSED, AS THEY HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO, THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT WE'VE AGREED TO, $325 MILLION. THAT WILL BE THE SECOND LARGEST RECOVERY IN THE HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY. WE HAVE OTHER INVESTIGATIONS THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT. AND WHAT WE'RE FINDING IS THAT THE INDUSTRY IS CHANGING, IS CLEANING UP IN TERMS OF HOW THEY DEAL WITH PEOPLE. AND THE PEOPLE THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HERE ARE SOME OF THE HARDEST WORKING PEOPLE IN IOWA AND IN AMERICA. THEY HAVE TWO OR THREE JOBS AMONG THE FAMILY. THEY HAVE A HARD TIME MAKING ENDS MEET. THEY RELY ON THESE KINDS OF COMPANIES. SO WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF THAT AND IN THE MIDST OF POTENTIALLY ACCOMPLISHING A LOT.

Glover: AND THERE ARE CRITICS WHO WILL SAY THAT YOU SPEND TOO MUCH OF YOUR TIME INVOLVED IN THESE KINDS OF THINGS AND THAT YOU OUGHT TO STICK TO YOUR BUSINESS AT HOME.

Miller: WELL, I MEAN THIS IS BUSINESS AT HOME. YOU KNOW, THE HOUSEHOLD HAS A SUBSTANTIAL NUMBER OF IOWA CUSTOMERS. AMERIQUEST HAS A SUBSTANTIAL NUMBER OF IOWA CUSTOMERS. BY DOING A MULTISTATE -- IT'S NOT SOMETHING THAT'S SORT OF OUT THERE IN THE WILD BLUE YONDER. IT HAS ENORMOUS EFFECTS ON IOWA. AND THE EFFECTS THAT I JUST DESCRIBED OF IMPROVEMENT IN THE INDUSTRY AFFECTS IOWANS JUST AS MUCH AS THEY AFFECT THE OTHER 49 STATES. THE MULTISTATE IS A VERY GOOD TOOL TO GET RESULTS RIGHT HERE IN IOWA.

Yepsen: GENERAL MILLER, WE ALWAYS LIKE TO TALK POLITICS ON THIS PROGRAM --

Miller: WELL, PARTICULARLY YOU, DAVID.

Yepsen: -- AS YOU KNOW.

Miller: THAT'S YOUR BEAT.

Miller: THAT'S WHAT WE DO FOR A LIVING. WILL YOU SEEK REELECTION?

Miller: YES, I WILL. I'M PLANNING ON SEEKING REELECTION.

Yepsen: ALL RIGHT. AT ONE TIME YOU HAD TOYED WITH THE IDEA OF RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR AGAIN. YOU RAN IN '90. YOU GOT BEAT IN THE PRIMARY. THE GOVERNORSHIP IS NOW OPEN. WHY AREN'T YOU RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR?

Miller: WELL, YOU KNOW, FOR A HOST OF REASONS. THE FIRST ONE IS THAT I LOVE THIS JOB. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S JOB IS, IN A LOT OF WAYS, THE BEST AND MOST REWARDING JOB IN GOVERNMENT, STATE, FEDERAL, OR LOCAL, I THINK. IT'S THE MIX OF LAW AND PUBLIC POLICY AND POLITICS OFF TO THE SIDE. IT'S REWARDING WHEN WE CAN DO SOMETHING FOR PEOPLE.

Yepsen: SO YOUR 1990 LOSS DIDN'T SCARE YOU OFF.

Miller: NO. AND THEN, YOU KNOW, I'M -- I'M IN A NEW MARRIAGE, A WONDERFUL MARRIAGE. AS YOU KNOW FROM THESE CAMPAIGNS, A GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN IN THE FIRST YEAR OF MARRIAGE IS NOT -- IS NOT WISE. ALSO, YOU KNOW, I'VE GOT FRIENDS IN THE RACE AND -- WELL, I'VE THOUGHT ABOUT IT, YOU KNOW. THE TIME HAS PASSED FOR ME TO GET INTO THE RACE. I'M RUNNING FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL.

Glover: WELL, AS YOU MENTIONED, THERE IS A DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY WITH A PRETTY GOOD SIZED FIELD. HAVE YOU PICKED A HORSE?

Miller: I HAVE NOT. YOU KNOW, I THINK -- I THINK IT'S A GOOD FIELD. YOU KNOW, I THINK THAT MIKE BLOUIN HAS ENORMOUS EXPERIENCE IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND AS A FORMER CONGRESSMAN. CHET CULVER IS TWO-TIME SECRETARY OF STATE, WELL-KNOWN, RAISING A LOT OF MONEY, RUNNING A GOOD CAMPAIGN. PATTY IS NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED, PATTY JUDGE, OUR SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE. SHE'S OUT THERE WITH A LOT OF ENTHUSIASM AND SOME VERY GOOD SUPPORT. ED FALLON, YOU KNOW, HAS THE LIBERALS, THE FAIRLY FAR-OUT LIBERALS, SOME WOULD SAY. THEY'RE WELL ORGANIZED. THEY'RE BEHIND HIM. SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT'S A GOOD FIELD.

Glover: AND DO YOU PLAN ON PICKING A HORSE?

Miller: YOU KNOW, I MIGHT. I HAVE A HARD TIME STAYING OUT OF RACES, PARTICULARLY PRESIDENTIAL RACES, BUT SOMETIMES A GUBERNATORIAL RACE. AND, YOU KNOW, MIKE BLOUIN IS A LONG-TIME FRIEND OF MINE. WE WERE IN COLLEGE TOGETHER. HE RAN MY CAMPAIGNS IN COLLEGE WHEN I RAN FOR STUDENT GOVERNMENT OFFICE.

Glover: SO -- AND YOU MENTIONED THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE. WILL YOU PICK A FAVORITE THERE?

Miller: OH, YEAH. I MEAN IOWA FIRST IN THE NATION, YOU CAN'T RESIST IN, YOU KNOW, AN ELECTED SPOT.

Glover: WHO ARE YOU LOOKING AT?

Miller: WELL, I LOOK AT EVERYBODY REALLY. AGAIN, I ALWAYS LOOK AT THEM ALL EARLY, AND I'M IMPRESSED WITH ALL THE CANDIDATES. AND GOVERNOR VILSACK, YOU KNOW, IS DOING QUITE WELL, I THINK.

Glover: IF HE RUNS, WILL YOU AUTOMATICALLY BE FOR HIM?

Miller: PROBABLY. I WAS TALKING TO MY COLLEAGUE IN GEORGIA, THURBERT BAKER, AND HE SAID THAT GOVERNOR VILSACK WAS DOWN THERE FOR THEIR BIG J.J. DINNER AND CAME OFF WELL TO -- SOME OF THE, YOU KNOW, PARTY REGULARS CAME UP TO HIM AFTERWARDS AND SAYS, YOU KNOW, THIS IS THE KIND OF GUY I COULD SUPPORT.

Yepsen: IF GOVERNOR VILSACK RUNS, DON'T THE IOWA CAUCUSES BECOME IRRELEVANT?

Miller: THEY COULD. THAT'S CERTAINLY WHAT HAPPENED IN '92 WITH HARKIN'S CANDIDACY. BUT, YOU KNOW, SOME CANDIDATES MAY CHALLENGE HIM. I DON'T KNOW.

Yepsen: PUT YOUR -- PUT YOUR HANDICAPPING HAT ON FOR ME, MR. MILLER. '06 IS THE IMMEDIATE RACE EVERYONE IS CONCERNED ABOUT. WHAT KIND OF CLIMATE IS OUT THERE FOR DEMOCRATS? SOME DAYS IT SEEMS LIKE IT LOOKS PRETTY GOOD, BUT HERE LATELY BUSH'S POLL NUMBERS HAVE BUMPED UP, FULL EMPLOYMENT IN IOWA. I MEAN THINKS ARE LOOKING A LITTLE BETTER FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE. WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT GOING INTO THE '06 ELECTIONS? GOOD FOR DEMOCRATS? BAD FOR DEMOCRATS?

Miller: I THINK IT'S GOOD FOR DEMOCRATS. IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN HOW GOOD AND WHAT KIND OF A BOUNCE. BUT, YOU KNOW, I THINK BUSH HAS COME UP ONLY TO 40- OR 39-PERCENT APPROVAL, WHICH IS NOT STRONG AT ALL. HE, YOU KNOW, GAINED IN 2002. I DON'T THINK THE REPUBLICANS WILL GAIN IN 2006. OUR SIDE, YOU KNOW, HASN'T DEVELOPED SORT OF A CONSISTENT AND OVERALL MESSAGE, AND THAT'S A HANDICAP. BUT I THINK THAT'S MORE SO IN A PRESIDENTIAL RACE THAN AN OFF-YEAR RACE.

Yepsen: HOW RELEVANT IS THE PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY TO WHAT HAPPENS IN IOWA? I MEAN I'M ALWAYS STRUCK BY THE FACT THAT THEY'RE TWO ENTIRELY SEPARATE THINGS. I MEAN IN 1978, WHEN YOU FIRST GOT ELECTED TO ATTORNEY GENERAL, JIMMY CARTER WAS PRETTY UNPOPULAR. THE DEMOCRATS LOST A U.S. SENATOR, YET YOU WON. SO WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE WHAT THE -- HOW THE PRESIDENT IS DOING?

Miller: I THINK IT DOES AT THE MARGIN AND CAN MORE IN CONGRESSIONAL RACES THAN STATE RACES. FOR INSTANCE, NUSSLE BEING, YOU KNOW, A VERY PROMINENT MEMBER OF THE HOUSE, HE HAS SOME RISK THAT OTHERS MAY NOT HAVE IF PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT BUSH AND THE NATIONAL REPUBLICANS.

Glover: JUST A FEW SECONDS LEFT. UP IN YOUR OLD NECK OF THE WOODS, THE FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, IS AN OPEN SEAT THAT NUSSLE IS LEAVING. DO DEMOCRATS PICK THAT UP?

Miller: I THINK SO. YOU KNOW, I SURE HOPE SO. I MEAN WE'VE HAD REPUBLICANS IN DEMOCRATIC DISTRICTS FOR A LONG TIME. HERE'S AN OPEN SEAT. HERE'S A CHANCE FOR US TO GET IT RIGHT, AND I THINK WE WILL. AND THE MOOD ABOUT BUSH MAY BE A FACTOR IN THAT RACE.

Borg: THANK YOU, MR. ATTORNEY GENERAL, FOR BEING OUR GUEST TODAY.

Miller: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME, DEAN.

Borg: ON OUR NEXT EDITION OF "IOWA PRESS," COMMENTS AND INSIGHT FROM THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO COVER IOWA GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL NEWS: DAVE YEPSEN, MIKE GLOVER, KAY HENDERSON, AND JENEANE BECK WILL BE HERE FOR OUR YEAR-END REPORTERS ROUNDTABLE. AND THERE'S A SLIGHT ADJUSTMENT IN OUR BROADCAST TIME BEGINNING NEXT WEEK. FRIDAY REMAINS AT 7:30 BUT THE SUNDAY REBROADCAST MOVES UP HALF AN HOUR TO 11:30. SO IT'S 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT, 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. I HOPE YOU'LL WATCH. ALL OF US HERE AT IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION HOPE YOUR HOLIDAYS ARE PLEASANT. I'M DEAN BORG. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR. FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM WAS PROVIDED BY "FRIENDS," THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS; AND BY THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF IOWA, THE PUBLIC'S PARTNER IN BUILDING IOWA'S, HIGHWAY, BRIDGE, AND MUNICIPAL UTILITY INFRASTRUCTURE.

Tags: Iowa