At another recent campaign appearance, Curran rattled off a long list of accomplishments, noting an initiative against TV violence; protection of nursing home residents from abuse; a "Senior Sting" targeting companies that defraud the elderly; and successfully arguing Supreme Court cases that strengthened the hand of law enforcement in searches and seizures.
Curran did not wait to hear Rappaport's reply, a stinging attack on Curran's record as a crime fighter -- especially his handling of the case that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against the state police over allegations of racial bias in deciding which motorists to stop and search along Interstate 95.
Rappaport produced statistics -- later confirmed by state police -- showing dramatic declines in drug seizures from 1995 to 1997. He blamed Curran for the decline and accused him of telling troopers that his office would not defend them if they stopped minority members and were sued as a result.
That prompted Curran to brand Rappaport a "liar."
The Republican backed down on the allegation that Curran made the remark, but he maintained that an assistant attorney general did -- a charge that Curran also strongly denied.
In an interview, Rappaport also criticized Curran over the centerpiece of his third term: the state's lawsuit against tobacco companies for the recovery of Medicaid costs linked to smoking-related illnesses. The case, which Curran has refused to settle on terms accepted by other states, could be worth billions of dollars to the state treasury.
Rappaport said he would not drop the suit, but he added that it raised concerns about whom would be sued next: "Are they going to sue McDonald's because there's too much fat in their hamburgers?"
He also criticized Curran for enlisting an outside firm -- that of Peter G. Angelos -- to handle the case.
He said that rather than make the state pay legal fees of as much as $500 million, he would have handled the case in-house.
Curran said he wouldn't want someone with little enthusiasm for the suit -- "like Mr. Rappaport" -- to come into office and take on the tobacco industry.
The attorney general said that if the tobacco case were handled by staff attorneys, it could eat up most of the agency's $12 million annual budget.
He said hiring an outside law firm on contingency was a good deal for the state.
"They're putting up all the money and doing all the work, and if we should lose the case, they receive no money," the attorney general said.
Pub Date: 10/23/98