Smart Decision 2012: Attorney General Candidate Libertarian Dave Browning
OAK GROVE - Dave Browning is the libertarian candidate for Missouri's Attorney General. Browning was born in Independence and currently resides in Oak Grove.
Browning graduated from the UMKC School of Law in 1975. He has been a lawyer for more than 35 years and served as an assistant prosecutor for nine years. In 2008, Browning ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in Missouri's 6th House District against incumbent Sam Graves.
KOMU 8 News recently sat down with Browning to talk about his campaign as part of the Smart Decision 2012 series. After repeated attempts, incumbent Attorney General Chris Koster's campaign would not participate in the series.
Interview Transcript: Reporter: What makes you the best qualified candidate to be Missouri's Attorney General?"
Browning: "Ah, well that's simple enough: time and graded experience. I've been a lawyer for 37 years, which is more than Ed Martin and Chris Koster combined. I was an assistant prosecutor for 9 years, which is just a little short of Koster, but I handled more cases in those 9 years than Chris Koster. And I do not have party agendas to fulfill with the office. My agenda is to see to it that the law is enforced: Neutrally and as even-handedly as possible."
Reporter: "So, you said you've practiced law for 37 years, what kind of law have you practiced?"
Browning: "Well I started out working for a guy and we did a little bit of civil a little bit of domestic a little bit of traffic, little bit of this, little bit of that trying to learn my trade. Then I was an assistant prosecutor for 9 years and I'll leave out the part of the story why I left the office. Well, I won't. My wife at that time was also an assistant prosecutor. She got cross-ways with the prosecuting attorney. I did not, but that pretty much left me having to leave when she left. So, we started up a family law practice. In that I do - I didn't do serious criminal defense. I'd do criminal nonsupport. That I could do and did do. A little bankruptcy, probate. Whatever trouble people got into. We mostly focused on child custody and child support."
Reporter: "So what do you think is the biggest issue facing Missouri right now?"
Browning: "I'm going to say something that's going to get me in trouble... We have an amendment No. 3 on the ballot. Amendment 3 is on the ballot because the Mo. Supreme court has essentially taken a position that the legislature has no right to tell them what to do. They will - of course - deny that. But when you talk to the legislature, that's what the legislature says. Bringing the court back in line with the will of the people. If you go down and see the state Capitol it says "the voice of the people is supreme law." The Supreme Court thinks the supreme court is the supreme law. Whoever makes the decision cannot be higher than the people. "
Reporter: "So with this amendment no. 3..."
Browning: "And the BAR is trying to get everybody to be for it. But Amendment 3 basically says the Senate has veto over the judges under the Missouri Plan. So if the judges are selected and then sent up to the Governor. Right now, the Governor can't veto and say send me somebody else. 3 says, we'll do it, the Senate. And it's at fault because they passed and changed the law."
Reporter: "What's your stance on President Obama's health care reform and what do you think Missouri should do about it?"
Browning: "Be a lot calmer than Ed Martin. My real stance: there's an old book called the Road to Serfdom. It's only about 100 pages. People should get it it's free on the net, you should read it. In it, the author states why centralized systems like Obamacare simply must fail. It's just the genetics of the system and I think we're there again. I think Obamacare must fail. Because of that, I'm very leery of it. I think it has a lot of good things in it, a lot of good things that people like me need. But I don't think they're going to be able to get around history. So Missouri should prepare to use it as long as we can and then to have our own alternative ready and in place when it fails."
Reporter: "What is the role the Attorney General's office plays in this whole healthcare thing? Does the Attorney General's office play a role?"
Browning: "Well if you ask Ed Martin he says it does. But the real answer is no. The job of the attorney general is how to put it into force and to see to it that the law is followed and obeyed. Nullification - in case people have missed the point of the Civil War - is no longer a valid choice. And these men want to raise it again. You can't run society that way."
Reporter: "What would be different in Missouri after you serve as Attorney General?"
Browning: "I think the attitude towards the use of the office. Both parties use the office for political purposes. I saw that Chris Koster is using it to promote a cigarette tax. That's not the job of the attorney general. The attorney general is supposed to stay neutral. The great beauty of our legal system is that it neutrally applies the rules to everyone. When you don't do that, things become distorted. The difference would be that people would see an undistorted office. They'd see how to do it again."
Reporter: "What do you think the Attorney General's greatest responsibility is to the people of Missouri?"
Browning: "To see to it that the laws are fairly enforced."
Reporter: "Simple as that?"
Browning: "It's as simple as that. That's the attorney general's job to see to it that the government operates within the law and people come up against prosecution. Because the power of the state is immense. Its to see to it that that is done in a way that is consistent with the will of the people and consistent with the limitations the people put on us. The United States is limited by the constitution. Missouri is even more limited by the constitution. You have only those powers the people gave you. You shouldn't be out there inching your way into more power. Overuse of power is misuse of power. I would like to see us back to understand that the judicial system, the legal system that acts with respect to the individual is a very powerful thing and something that people want."
Reporter: "Democrats have held this office since 1993, why do you think it's time for a change?"
Browning: "I think that Chris, if you read his piece on a tax whose time has come, shows that he runs his office with a political agenda. I think we've come to the point where liberalism has just about come to the end of its rope. If you want to have a liberal government is the man. It depends on how you want to run your government. If you want a liberal government Chris is your guy. If you want a crazed republican radical Ed Martin's your man, he's a crazed republican radical. No problem, but if you want a day to day neutral government then I'm the only guy there."
Reporter: "What are your thoughts on Missouri's Death Penalty?"
Browning: "I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and he said the death penalty should be for treason terrorism and espionage. That's a pretty good position to take. The real problem with the death penalty - there's two things. One is that is expensive it costs more to kill them than it does to keep them. Why are we going to spend more on them? Just as a practical matter, if it's cheaper to imprison you for life then let's just imprison you for life. With that, you're given this terrible power. The state isn't going to be there to explain to God what happened. I don't think any of us believe the state is going to heaven. A lot of us believe we might be, but not the state. And we're letting the state kill people? Somebody that doesn't have to explain why this person is dead? That's too much power for a government. Too much power for a government that is politically motivated. The death penalty is not a thing to be dealt with lightly. You get a lot of people that say ‘hey they should be put to death' I say let's keep them. It's cheaper that way. That's where I'm at."
Reporter: "Anything else you'd like to add?"
Browning: "Well you've got three people running. You've got a Republican that caught an ambulance and drives around in it. You've got a democrat that doesn't even understand he's a liberal. And you have to decide whether government should go down the republican path, the democrat path, or whether you think things ought to be stopped and we ought to take stock of where we are and run it for the people of Missouri. I think it's time to turn things around."