ATLANTA… This week at the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) summer meeting in Atlanta, Attorney General Rob McKenna received updates on the multi-state effort to rid social networking sites like MySpace.com of sexual predators, led negotiations over payments due to the states under the national tobacco master settlement and accepted a NAAG “Best Brief” award for the office’s reply brief in the Washington v. WEA case.
Wednesday, McKenna and other state Attorneys General received a report from the association’s Internet safety executive committee on recent efforts to detect and remove sex predators from social networking sites.
“While much of the recent multistate focus has been on MySpace.com, the fact is that predators troll all of the social networking sites, looking for children to target,” McKenna said. “The FBI has estimated that on any given day, around 50,000 sex offenders are on the internet in chat rooms, social sites and other cyber venues where young people congregate. Every week across the country, law enforcement stings and investigations result in the arrest of adult men who have arranged to meet with young potential victims.”
MySpace.com has reported removing the pages of thousands of registered sex offenders who created their profiles using their real names. It is impossible to know how many other offenders are on MySpace.com and similar sites using assumed names. The states are focused on persuading MySpace.com to adopt parental approval requirements and develop an age verification system. Similar demands are likely for other social networking sites.
Also Wednesday, McKenna and his fellow NAAG Tobacco Co-Chair, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, met with representatives of tobacco companies regarding scheduled payments to the states under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (“MSA”).
In April of 2006 and 2007, some of the companies that are parties to the MSA withheld from their payments to the states, or paid into a disputed payments account, $1.5 billion - claiming the companies were entitled to a downward adjustment to their annual payment obligation under the MSA.
These withholdings and disputed payments came after a consulting firm concluded that the MSA, which imposes marketing restrictions on the signatory companies and requires annual payments to the settling states, was a "significant factor" contributing to the loss of market share on the part of these companies.
The purpose of Wednesday's meeting was to explore a possible resolution to the dispute between the states and the companies regarding the companies’ claim to a right to payment reductions.
“Negotiations will continue,” said McKenna, who co-chairs the NAAG Tobacco Committee. “We made solid progress and I’m confident we will continue gaining ground in our efforts to protect this settlement and the public health funding it brings our states.”
Yesterday, the Washington AGO was presented with a NAAG Supreme Court Best Brief Award. NAAG Best Brief Awards recognize excellence in brief writing in the US Supreme Court by state attorneys. The awards are given at the end of each US Supreme Court term, and are presented at the annual NAAG summer meeting.
The award recognizes the Reply Brief for Petitioner State of Washington in Washington v. WEA, the first case Rob McKenna argued before the Supreme Court. In this case, the state defended I-134's provision requiring unions to obtain the affirmative authorization of agency-fee paying nonmembers before using their fees for political purposes. The US Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in the state's favor last week. The Attorney General's Office won all five of the Supreme Court cases it was a party to this year, and appeared in four oral arguments before the Court, a Washington AGO record for a single term.
“This is a great honor for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office,” McKenna said. “This award, coupled with our 5-for-5 record before the US Supreme Court this year, demonstrates the tremendous expertise and experience in our office, which is why we are considered one of the best public law offices in the nation.”
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