John Kroger for Attorney General?

Andrew Simon

Today's Willamette Week is reporting that John Kroger is considering a run for Oregon AG in '08.

The field of contenders hoping to succeed Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers in 2008 has attracted an intriguing name: John Kroger , a 40-year-old associate professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School. Although Kroger moved to Oregon in 2002 and has never run for office before, his experience prosecuting New York mobsters and former Enron execs gives him a strong resume; a couple decades toiling in the Democratic Party trenches here and on the East Coast gives him a network. Kroger says he's "strongly considering" entering the race.

Here's more from Kroger's uncommonly impressive resume: U.S. Marine Corps, Yale undergrad, Harvard Law School, Deputy Policy Director on Clinton's '92 campaign and senior policy analyst at the Treasury Department. Also he received the Director’s Award from AG Reno in '99 for his mafia shut outs.

Kroger has strong ties to the Dems (DPO Finance Committee Chair) but I think his law-and-order background will appeal to GOP moderates. His prosecutorial experience undoubtedly qualifies him for the job and should play well on the campaign trail.

I say go for it, John. You've got my vote.

  • (Show?)

    John worked with me on the Vets for Kerry campaign in 2004. In addition to an incredible resume, John is a low-key personable guy in the Hardy Myers mold. At the same time he has an ambitious activist agenda that the netroots will really find appealing. You should take advantage of any chance to meet John.

  • John Napolitano (unverified)

    For those in Washington County, I believe he is on the agenda as a speaker at the Washington County Democratic Central Committee monthly meeting tonight at 7 PM.

  • Harry Wilson (unverified)

    John Kroger rocks! No question. I’m a law student at Lewis & Clark and Co-Chair of the Law School Democrats. He was key in helping to get the Law School Dems started. I’ve worked with him on the state finance committee. And I’ve also taken a class with him. He is a great teacher: dynamic, brilliant, thoughtful, and friendly. He would make an outstanding AG.

  • Michael Simon (unverified)

    I don't know how often a father gets to agree in public with the political views expressed by his 18-year-old son (although I have learned from experience that when I disagree with Andrew on a political matter, it turns out more often than not that he was right). Here, we certainly agree. I have known John Kroger for almost four years, having worked with him in the legal representation of candidates and other political matters. Based on personal experience, I have the highest respect for John's integrity, abilities, intelligence, judgment, and energy. The fact that John is a highly respected and articulate educator (he is a law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School, teaching criminal law and ethics, and legal theory), only enhances his credentials in addition to his experience as a federal prosecutor of organized crime and corporate crime. I support John to be Oregon's next Attorney General. (It also saves me from having to admit to Andrew that he was right, once again.)

  • PA (unverified)

    OK, perhaps this is overly nitpicky, but I find it interesting to see so many posts essentially endorsing this guy without so much as a whisper about what he, you know, actually believes.

    Yeah, he looks like a great guy, has an impressive resume, and a good network and all that. But what are his priorities? Is he a "law and order Democrat" along the lines of Josh Marquis? Not so attractive IMO (side note: are there "lawlessness and chaos Democrats"?) How does he prioritize consumer protection? Where does he stand on a woman's right to choose?

    By all means, welcome to the race and all that. But for pete's sake, "the guy is awesome on paper so I'm endorsing him" seems like jumping the gun a little.

    For what it's worth.

  • Rahna (unverified)

    I have not yet had the chance to delve into deep discussions with John about what "he believes" in regards to the AG position. However, as a former student, I do know that John is a man that thinks critically about each issue, does not fit folks and ideas into a box, takes the time to step back and analyze his positions, and more. His background in the study of jurisprudence and as a top prosecutor - combined with what I believe to be his curious nature - make John a unique and thoughtful candidate, individual, whatever you want to call him. For this reason, I think he'd be a great AG. But hey, if you want to know more, just ask him, he's a great person to talk with.

  • Brian (unverified)

    Sorry, but my vote is reserved for State Rep. Greg MacPherson should he choose to run, which is likely. Greg is a highly respected legislator from SW Portland and Lake O and is Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Co-Chair of the new committee trying to resolve the Measure 37 mess. He is a very strong progressive and conservationist (94% OLCV) and he will make a great AG. If Greg takes a pass, I would be happy to consider this fellow.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Pete Sorenson!! The right man for the right job.

    I hope Mr. Kroger sticks around Oregon for a while and perhaps someday he'll have my support for statewide office.


  • Misha (unverified)

    I was Hardy Myers's campaign manager last cycle. Here are my two cents. (Of course, I don't speak for Hardy anymore, or anyone else for that matter...)

    The AG race is very complicated, and I would be concerned that someone with as low a profile as John Kroger could not win a general election against a strong Republican challenger.

    First, the AG race is a relatively low-budget race (as compared with Governor or Congress), because most people don't know what the AG does and don't feel a strong personal investment in who wins. The "donor base" is therefore comprised of Portland-area lawyers and business interests who have something to lose if a pro-consumer Democrat wins the seat. Someone like Rep. Greg MacPherson (an attorney at Stoel Rives) will have much better access to the Portland lawyer money than John Kroger will -- money that will be necessary to defeat a Republican if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce throws a million dollars behind the Republican (something they've done a few times in other states in recent years). I can't stress enough how hard it is for Democrats to raise money for this seat, especially when you don't have Kevin Mannix on the other side of the ticket to drum up the base.

    Second, because the AG race is fairly low-budget, it is only possible to buy a limited amount of TV air time -- which is guaranteed to be drowned-out anyway by the presidential and congressional contests in 2008. Thus, endorsements from editorial boards and law enforcement organizations assume unusual prominence in the AG race. Democrats always have an uphill battle convincing law enforcement organizations to endorse them for AG -- in 1996 and 2000, Hardy tried hard to persuade organizations like Crime Victims United and the State Police to stay out of the race entirely, because an endorsement was so far fetched. (Even in 2004, the State Police endorsed Paul Connelly over Hardy, and other law enforcement groups, like CVU and the Police Chiefs, only reluctantly endorsed Hardy -- and that's after eight years of working in partnership with him!) The point is: I question John Kroger's ability to forge these relationships in the next 16 months, which will be critical to winning a competitive general election.

    I have met John Kroger and I'm sure he would make a terrific AG. But for these low-profile statewide races, viability is an important consideration. The AG has a lot of power in Oregon and that power in the hands of a Republican is worrisome. We should select our nominee carefully.

  • dem atty (unverified)

    John Kroger has great progressive "cred" on issues. Anyone who heard him speak at the Bus Conference a year ago knows that he's very insightful and thinks strategically about how to move a progressive agenda forward. John has great ideas about how the government's regulatory authority (which he knows a great deal about from serving as an Enron prosecutor) should be used to make the economy more fair for workers and to protect consumers. He's not a "law-and-order" prosecutor. He's a committed advocate who's worked on policy for some very progressive candidates and electeds.

  • BobTucker (unverified)

    Gee, how nice of him to move here four years ago as he shopped acros the country for a place to run for office. I know we're often a little too teritorial in Oregon, but shouldn't we elect people to statewide office who've spent some meaningful time in the state? Shouldn't the AG have had some relevent legal experience in an Oregon community?
    Or are we to just supposed be grateful that some east coast hack has decided to grace us with his political ambition and lead us yocals to the promised land? Our elected officials don't need to be life-long Oregonians, but a four year transplant brought here by ambition is not cool.

  • (Show?)

    Good discussion here, folks.

    One minor note - It's "Macpherson". No capital P.

    I'll go back to listening now.

  • Jonathan Donehower (unverified)

    John Kroger would be a great choice for AG. I am a student of his and a member of the Law School Democrats at Lewis & Clark Law School. John brings strong ideals and a commitment to his and our community. His energy, ideals and commitment to grassroots service for Democrats is infectious and inspired many stressed law students, including myself, to leave the library and campaign for Oregon Democrats this fall. John Kroger is an excellent Professor who engages the class with his lectures, ideas, and ability to bring the whole class into the discussion. John Kroger has an impressive out of state resume and previous experience, and this is an asset. We should embrace all people from across the country who chooses to make Portland their home and work to strengthen our community. I echo Harry’s words, “He would make an outstanding AG.”

  • (Show?)

    I few of these comments below voice concern that John Kroger has lived in Oregon but a short while. I think anytime our great state attracts a person of talent, intellect, and integrity, like John Kroger, to seek elected office, we as voters and Democrats should do all we can to encourage that involvement. John Kroger isn't seeking national office; rather, if he decides to run, he will be serving Oregon from within Oregon. We shouldn't have to wait a decade (or however long is deemed sufficient) to have a person of his talents in elected office shaping Oregon's future. I can think of no better candidate for the job and am thankful that John Kroger is willing to increase his commitment to his state.

  • Matt Washchuk (unverified)

    John Kroger would be an ideal candidate for attorney general. I am also a law student at Lewis & Clark, and having taken criminal law courses from him, I can tell you that he has unmatched dedication and enthusiasm. This is not a guy who has simply been in Oregon for four years. He chairs the DPO Finance Committee and has been incredibly active in Oregon politics. He can appeal to the entire political spectrum. As the article says, he served in the Marines, prosecuted Enron, and was a key policy director for Clinton's 1992 campaign. If the only answer is someone who has lived in Oregon for 20+ years, the state will be losing a great attorney general. We should care about who has the best qualifications and who can best represent our Democratic views. That's John Kroger.

  • Jon (unverified)

    his experience prosecuting New York mobsters and former Enron execs gives him a strong resume

    Wow, then maybe he can go after some of the folks running Portland and the PDC. (Although, if he is of the Hardy Myers mold, thats highly unlikely.)

    As for "where he stands on a woman's right to choose"...thats irrelevant. As an AG, I would hope he stands on the side of the law, no matter what it was. Otherwise, he doesnt have any business being AG.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    Kroger would probably be a good choice if Oregon wants an Eliot Spitzer type AG. If elected, I would expect him to engage in a few high profile white collar prosecutions (if he is lucky enough to find any in Oregon now that Andy Wiederhorn has retired) and to generally be a pain in the ass to slippery corporate types, which is good. After a term or two as AG, I expect that he will run for the US Senate or maybe Governor.

    Carpetbagging ex-prosecutors from the East Coast have their good points and their bad points, but Oregon's AG office seems like an odd destination for a political climber if you ask me. But then again, a very large number of great US senators have begun their political life as prosecutors of one sort or another.

    By the way, I hope all the highly complimentary posters above who identify themselves as current students of Mr. Kroger will be careful when removing their lips from his ass. We wouldn't want any suction injuries.

  • James Mattiace (unverified)

    State Senator Floyd Prozanski should be recruited to run for this, He has tremendous crossover appeal, years of experience as a prosecutor, has the gravitas to hold the position, and has more integrity than just about anyone I have met.

  • Got Gravitas? (unverified)

    The Gravitas? Did Hardy Har Har have the gravitas? Based on the current office holder, I'd say we could eliminate the A.G.'s office and nobody would know the difference.

  • Misha (unverified)

    A point of clarification (of particular relevance to the posts by BlueNote and Jon...

    Under Oregon law, the attorney general has no authority to initiate prosecutions (as a general matter). That authority is vested in local district attorneys, who are elected directly by the public (not appointed by the AG, as in some states). Thus, the Attorney General of Oregon has no power to prosecute white collar criminals the way Eliot Spitzer has famously done in New York.

    The great power of the attorney general is in advising the state on what the law is. This may sound meaningless to some, but think of it as like the Governor's power to veto laws. If the AG says it's illegal, then the government agency is almost always going to follow his instructions. (Imagine if an activist conservative AG started instructing government agencies to stop enforcing environmental regulations -- as the Republican candidate in 2004 said he'd do. We'd have a disaster on our hands.)

    If you're actually interested in learning what else the AG does, Hardy Myers's campaign website is still up from 2004, and it provides a lot of useful information on the subject.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    I accept Nick's comment regarding the lenth of time Mr. Kroger's been in Oregon, and I wouldn't say it's per se a dealbreaker.

    What I would say is this, though: there seems to be a sense, in reading this thread, that there's some vacuum of competent people and Mr. Kroger is here to save us by filling it. In fact, I think people who have a sense of the lay of the land around here probably believe that there are already several good candidates: I mentioned Peter Sorenson. Greg Mcpherson and Floyd Prozanski are two others. All three have a great deal of experience doing good work in this state.

    If Mr. Kroger wanted to get his feet wet in Oregon politics, why didn't he take a good look at (for instance) the recent race for Multnomah County Sheriff? Four months ago, if he had jumped into that race he likely would have won, given the pathetic choice we were given. If he spent a term or two doing that job well, he'd probably have my vote for a move up to AG.

    It seems like a serious candidate would strategize the hard slog it takes to get to the AG's office, rather than just starting there and expecting everyone to salute.


  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    If you all are serious, there's a few basic questions, not one of which I have heard put to a candidate since 9/11. I suppose it's like our car commercials saying nothing substantive about the vehicle's qualities as a car, just lots of mindless association, but, if you're serious about the AG position then, IMHO, these ten questions should be asked.

    1). Describe the steps you would take in the immediate aftermath of a WMD attack against Portland. Would you declare martial law? For how long? Would you cede authority to the Federal Government in any way? Would you support rounding-up members of an ethnic minority if the perpetrators belonged to their number?

    2). If DEA agents plan or are in the act of committing violence against an Oregon legal marijuana grower and state law enforcment are called for assistance, what are your instructions to them? Would you file amicus curiae briefs in support of physicians that proscribe lethal doses of drug under Oregon's assisted suicide law and provide other legal assistance to them if prosecuted by the Federal government?

    3). DHS has a written harassment policy which states that the policy applies to all DHS workers, including contractors. In fact, the Director of Personnel at DHS will not investigate harassment claims made by contractors. The current director believes he has the AG's support on this. Would you continue to support such a policy?

    4). Oregon law, with the exception of some trash dumping and trailer hitch violations, does not allow a complaint to be brought in an Oregon court, except when the complaint is made by a peace officer. If someone pulls a gun and shoots me, no questions asked, I do not have a complaint. The DA must decide that I have a complaint, based on the statement of a peace officer, and decide to bring a prosecution. This is the root cause of plea bargains, prosecutors' intransigence in re-opening cases where justice was clearly perverted and a host of ills. Would you bring the system up to date in any way?

    5). Powers not explicitly granted to the Federal branch are retained by the States, so our groundwork documents state. By implication, powers not explicitly claimed by a state are retained by the individual. Do you support this construction?

    6). It can be argued that all erosion of habeas corpus began with Richard Nixon's War on Drugs. The original Patriot Act made the fear a reality when it was argued on the floor of the United States Senate that they were "not asking for any powers that the State doesn't already excercise against drug dealers". Now that there is a call for law makers to be tested, are you willing to consider the 4th amendment implications? Would you give an example of a drug law that has worked in American history and is not racist? If not, do you support continued erosion of the 4th amendment? In abstract terms, name some "good reasons" for suspending these constitutional protections. Are Oregon's drug laws accomplishing those ends?

    7). Oregon law allows a peace officer to take a life based on his gut feeling. In what way is that any different than life in one of the historical "police states"?

    8). There is no criminal penalty enforced for filing a fraudulent business registration in Oregon. Since this is the only way for a consumer to know with whom they are dealing, allowing registrations to go unverified and fraudulent registrations unpunished leaves the consumer without their first line of defense. Assuming funding was forthcoming, would you add criminal penalties? If so, what?

    9). There seems to be a precedent developing that if you violate everyone's rights it's OK, only a problem when you single out an individual. For example, while the police are required to satisfy a number of critera to obtain a warrant on an individual, if a child disappears from a bus stop 3 miles away, no questions are asked when they summarily throw every resident of her apartment complex into the street, refuse to allow them back, and begin conducting a fishing expedition in every apartment in the building. The majority of these prosecutions have nothing to do with the original complaint, and, as was the case in Oregon City with the FBI, can cause critical leads to not be followed up in a timely manner. Would you develop explicit criteria for mass searches or is that to be left as an operational judgement by the police?

    10). Law enforcement tends to see people in black and white terms, as "bad guys" and "good guys". Have you ever broken the law in a manner that you would repeat or are proud of? What would you say to the average law enforcement officer that, if you answer this honestly, would see you as a "bad guy"?

    Substantive debate. Give me a break.

    Now back to American politics. "Vote fer 'im. His opponent looks funny."

  • Coyote (unverified)


    More integrity than anyone else?

    Uh... Didn't he just violate the rules of the new Democratic majority? I mean shutting the open door process?

    I dunno, perhaps hypocrisy does not fall under the realm of integrity. Well at least in the Democratic lexicon?

  • Chris Garrett (unverified)

    Misha, why can't the AG initiate prosecutions? I know that the office historically has not played that role, but ORS 180.240 gives the AG the same powers as any DA. I don't think that statute has been tested, but it seems to open the door for an enterprising prosecutor. (And if the AG needs more statutory authority, it can be gotten.)

    That's one reason I think John Kroger would be great for the job. All of our recent AG's have come from corporate or civil law backgrounds, and I think having an actual prosecutor in the office would be a healthy change. Even without bringing criminal cases, someone with a prosecutor's mentality could do a lot with civil enforcement and by providing leadership and coordination for county DA's.

    The carpetbagging accusation is false. I've known John for several years and he only recently began considering this race. The charge is also pretty small-minded when you look at John's background. He has a breadth of knowledge and richness of perspective that come from having done law and policy work for the Clinton administration, on Capitol Hill, for a federal appeals judge, and as a top-flight federal prosecutor. We could use a few more people like that serving Oregon; almost by definition they aren't going to have lived here for a long time before they run.

    I'm glad that John is interested in the job and I think he has the potential to be an exceptional Attorney General.

  • Andrew McDonald (unverified)

    I am a first year student at Lewis and Clark Law School, and it was Professor Kroger's "mock class" last spring which made my decision to come here. I have encountered John Kroger several times since then through the Law School Democrats and other pre-election activities. He is an inspiring speaker and has some great ideas. I sincerely hope that he decides to run.

  • Steiny (unverified)

    I just met John Kroger last night for the first time. I have already promised him that, if he runs, he'll have the best personalized campaign buttons of anyone! He is indeed "low-key", but I'd sure hate to be in his sights- if I was a meth dealer, I'd be packing my bags ASAP!

  • Jon (unverified)

    If the AG says it's illegal, then the government agency is almost always going to follow his instructions.

    Even more reason that he should instruct them in the law as its written, not as he feels it should be, even if he disagrees with it. This goes for any candidate, any party.

  • Jon (unverified)


    Regarding can a drug law be racist? I have to admit, I havent read the drug laws. But I have a hard time believing they specifically mention the race of the accused.

  • (Show?)


    I am a Senior Assistant Attorney General, although I would stress I am not speaking here for Hardy, the Department of Justice, or anyone but myself.

    The Department of Justice is the largest law firm in Oregon, with approximately 260 lawyers, and likely 290 after this legislature finished with the budget. Approximately 100 are involved in teh giving of CORPORATE adivce to their client, the government. Forty of us, myself included, DEFEND lawsuits. Thirty more handle appeals.

    The staff, despite it's size, has a huge workload. That workload -- whether or not statute allows it -- is not prosecutorial, except that we initiate civil lawsuits in the Civil Recovery section. The state does not need a prosecutor as AG; it needs a manager and teach and coach and recruiter of good, hard working attorneys. They need, as Misha noted, to advise the government on what the law is (and, in some cases should be).

    That is not to say that John or Floyd or Greg or Josh may not fill that bill. However, being a legislator or a prosecutor isn't per se the qualification we're looking for. Let's pick an attorney general who can provide managerial skill, wisdom, and experience (which, by the way, Hardy Meyers has done in spades).

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    The media-darling-dangerous drug of the moment has always been highly identified with the "problem" minority of the moment.

    The last posting was too long for me to itemize again, but I could easily come up with another ten, but, honestly can't think of a single case that couldn't be constructed as not being that way. My favorite is the original. I can't find an earlier example in US law.

    When San Francisco was being "overun" with Chinese immigrants in the 1840s, the city council passed a law making it an offense to carry loads on ones back. The California Supreme Court struck down the law. The city council responded by outlawing opium, which law was upheld on grounds of public safety. I can't see the template has ever changed. Why are the penalties for rock cocaine so much more punitive than for powder when it's the same drug (I guess)?

  • (Show?)

    Here, again with the qualification that I am not speaking for Hardy, ODOJ or anyone other than myself (and hopefully fewer typos than last night's quickly composed post), is the answer to the question “why can’t the Attorney General prosecute just as the DAs do?”

    DAs are creatures of the Oregon Constitution, Article VII, section 17. The attorney general is not a creature of the constitution, but is a statutory office. The apparent power of the Attorney General, under ORS 180.240 is not as broad as the wording of that statute suggests. this was clarified by the Oregon Supreme Court in State ex rel Thornton v. Williams, 215 Or. 639 (1959). The attorney general is only empowered to initiate prosecutions when directed by the Governor. The AG may not do so on his (or her) own initiative.

    Accordingly, a prosecutorial credential would seem to be of less relevance than civil and managerial credentials.

  • (Show?)


    Even if the AG can only initiate prosecutions when directed by the Governor, won't prosecutorial experience be an asset in the actual conduction of the prosecution? Also, it doesn't seem like it would be a. difficult or b. prohibited for the two offices to discuss possible prosecutions, the Governor to direct the AG to start a prosecution and the AG to go kick ass. Albeit, it may require some people to step up and take some initiative to get stuff done, but that doesn't seem like an unreasonable action from our elected officials. I agree that "civil and managerial credentials" are very important but it is pretty apparent that the AG's office has greater warrant than you give it.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    Sounds like we have two great candidiates. Misha raised the important money hurdle. Are either of these candidiates potential self funders? I think for the AG race, $500,000 is considered a good budget, although Mannix spent twice that in 2000.

  • (Show?)


    Sure, prosecutorial experience could be an assset in an AG, if the Governor authorizes such actions. However, without doing historical research, my guess is that this is an incredibly infrequent occurance, and I'd put it about 9th or 10th on my list of qualifications. It also begs the question of whether the Legislature (and who knows who will control it in 2009-13) would authorize the funds for such prosecutions, and the question of who among us has a desk that clean! Most of DOJs work is not general fund supported, and we actually bill clients The structure of our office is quite simply different from that run by Spitzer. Remember, I'm not suggesting at all that John, if he runs, would not be a good candidate, or qualified. But I would not jump on his or any other bandwagon based on this particular issue, which is fundamentally not related to the current adn very important work of the office.

  • David (unverified)

    As a former attorney at DOJ (and speaking for only myself), I would echo many of Marc's comments regarding important qualities of a good AG - manager, teacher, and recruiter of hard-working attorneys that advise and represent state government on a wide-range of issues.

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