An atmosphere of conviviality greeted Republican attorneys general arriving in New Orleans for their recent winter conference. It was Mardi Gras, and tourists traipsed through the lobby of the historic Roosevelt Hotel wearing colorful beaded necklaces and clutching cocktails.
A few feet from the check-in desk, if any of the attorneys general stopped to notice it, stood a replica of former U.S. Sen. and Louisiana Gov. Huey Long’s “deduct box,” which reportedly contained more than $1 million in cash donations from businesses and wealthy individuals when the notoriously corrupt Long was assassinated in 1935. The attorneys general were in New Orleans on their own fundraising mission, albeit aboveboard. That evening, in a ballroom one flight up, the Republican Attorneys General Association hosted an invite-only Super Bowl party, where they mixed and mingled with donors, and alcohol flowed freely. There was reason to celebrate. Having endured its worst crisis since it became a standalone entity in 2014, RAGA was thriving again.
RAGA, a tax-exempt political group representing more than half of the states’ chief legal officers, had come in for particularly harsh criticism for its support of Trump’s election fraud claims in the wake of the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A RAGA sister organization had sent a robocall urging “patriots” to join Trump’s Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse in Washington. Then the fuzzy recorded voice went one step further, saying, “We will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal.”
Only a few weeks earlier, Texas’ Republican attorney general, Kenneth Paxton, had brought an emergency motion to the Supreme Court to invalidate the results of the vote in four states Joe Biden had won. Seventeen Republican attorneys general, all RAGA members, supported the motion.
The response from corporate America was