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Ken Cuccinelli
Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II (/ˈkuːtʃɪˈnɛli/ KOO-chi-NEL-ee; born July 30, 1968) is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 46th attorney general

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Ken CuccinelliDirector of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
ActingIncumbentAssumed office
June 10, 2019PresidentDonald TrumpPreceded byLee Cissna46th Attorney General of VirginiaIn office
January 16, 2010 – January 11, 2014GovernorBob McDonnellPreceded byBill MimsSucceeded byMark HerringMember of the Virginia Senate
from the 37th districtIn office
August 19, 2002 – January 12, 2010Preceded byWarren E. BarrySucceeded byDave Marsden Personal detailsBornKenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II
(1968-07-30) July 30, 1968 (age 51)
Edison, New Jersey, U.S.Political partyRepublicanSpouse(s)Teiro DavisChildren7EducationUniversity of Virginia (BS)
George Mason University (MA, JD)Signature

Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II (/ˈkuːtʃɪˈnɛli/ KOO-chi-NEL-ee; born July 30, 1968) is an American politician and lawyer who served as the 46th attorney general of Virginia from 2010 until 2014, and currently works in the Trump administration as acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office.[1] He was in the Virginia Senate, representing the 37th District in Fairfax County from 2002 until he took office as attorney general in 2010.

On May 18, 2013, Cuccinelli won the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination at the state party convention.[2] Cuccinelli was the Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election, losing to the Democratic nominee, Terry McAuliffe, by 56,435 votes or 2.5% of the total votes cast.[3]

A self-described opponent of homosexuality, Cuccinelli in his position as Virginia Attorney General defended anti-sodomy laws and prohibitions on same-sex marriage. Cuccinelli rejects the scientific consensus on climate change, and in his position as Attorney General investigated climate scientists, who he argued were engaged in fraud. He filed lawsuits against the Obama administration's Environmental Protection Agency. Characterized as an immigration hard-liner, Cuccinelli sought to prohibit undocumented immigrants from attending universities, repeal birthright citizenship, and force employees to speak English in the workplace.

  • 1 Early life, education, and early career
  • 2 Virginia Senate (2002–2010)
  • 3 Attorney General of Virginia (2010–2014)
    • 3.1 2009 election
    • 3.2 Healthcare
    • 3.3 Immigration
    • 3.4 Environment
      • 3.4.1 Litigation against climate scientists
    • 3.5 Campaign contributions
    • 3.6 Virginia seal
    • 3.7 Combating usury
    • 3.8 Advocacy for veterans
    • 3.9 Antitrust enforcement
    • 3.10 Extradition of Jens Soering to Germany
    • 3.11 Education policy
    • 3.12 Donor intent
    • 3.13 Star Scientific tax dispute lawsuit
    • 3.14 Sex trafficking
    • 3.15 LGBT rights
    • 3.16 Exoneration of Thomas Haynesworth
  • 4 2013 run for governor
  • 5 After leaving office
  • 6 USCIS Director (2019–present)
    • 6.1 Appointment Controversy
    • 6.2 Tenure in Office
  • 7 Political views
    • 7.1 Abortion
    • 7.2 Birtherism
    • 7.3 Guns
    • 7.4 Immigration
    • 7.5 Donald Trump
    • 7.6 Taxes
    • 7.7 Eminent domain
    • 7.8 Law enforcement
    • 7.9 Abstinence-only sex education
  • 8 Electoral history
  • 9 Personal life
  • 10 See also
  • 11 References
  • 12 External links
Early life, education, and early career

Cuccinelli was born in Edison, New Jersey, the son of Maribeth (née Reilly) and Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli.[4] His father is of Italian descent and his mother is of Irish ancestry.[5] He graduated from Gonzaga College High School in 1986,[6] and received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia, a J.D. degree from George Mason University School of Law, and an M.A. in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University.[7]

He co-founded a general practice law firm in Fairfax City, Virginia.[8]

While living in a group house in college, Cuccinelli heard a woman shriek when an intruder climbed into her bed. After the incident, Cuccinelli established a peer-to-peer sexual assault prevention group on campus, and became a confidant for survivors of sexual assault.[9] Cuccinelli worked together with feminists on campus to convince the university to create a full-time sexual assault education coordinator position.[9][10]

Virginia Senate (2002–2010)

Cuccinelli ran for the state Senate in the 37th District in an August 2002 special election. He defeated Democrat Catherine Belter 55%–45%.[11][12] In 2003, he was re-elected to his first full term, defeating Democrat Jim E. Mitchell III 53%–47%.[13] In 2007, he barely won re-election to his second full term, narrowly defeating Democrat Janet Oleszek by a 0.3-point margin, a difference of just 92 votes out of about 37,000 votes cast.[14][15]

Committee assignments

  • Courts of Justice
  • Local Government
  • Rehabilitation and Social Services
  • Transportation[16]
Attorney General of Virginia (2010–2014)

Cuccinelli was inaugurated on January 16, 2010.[17] He donated $100,000 from his inauguration fundraising effort to a Richmond non-profit that provides medical and mental health services to the homeless, saying inauguration events should be used to shed light on impoverished and underserved citizens.[18][19]

2009 election

In 2009 Cuccinelli was selected as the Republican nominee for attorney general,[20] going on to win 58% of the vote (1,123,816 votes). Republican Bob McDonnell became governor,[21] and Bill Bolling was re-elected as lieutenant governor.

Two weeks after taking office, Cuccinelli drew questions for continuing to represent a private client in a court proceeding, although this was not illegal.[22]

Healthcare Cuccinelli (right) speaking at US Department of Justice announcement of resolution with Abbott Laboratories for its off-label promotion of the drug Depakote See also: National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius

In 2010, Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit (Virginia v. Sebelius) in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), claiming that it exceeded the Federal government's power under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.[23][24] He was the first attorney general to file a lawsuit against the ACA.[24] During his 2013 run for Governor, Cuccinnelli opposed Medcaid expansion.[24] The lawsuit was unsuccessful.[25][26]


In July 2010, Cuccinelli joined eight other states in filing an amicus brief opposing the federal government's lawsuit challenging an Arizona immigration enforcement statute.[27]

In August 2010, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion authorizing law enforcement officials to investigate the immigration status of anyone that they have stopped; previously this was done only for those arrested. Cuccinelli noted that the authority to investigate the immigration status of a stopped person should not "extend the duration of a stop by any significant degree." Critics note that the opinion circumvents changing the policy by legislation and that bills to make this change have died in the General Assembly.[28]


Cuccinelli rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.[29]

In 2010, Cuccinelli filed a request with the Environmental Protection Agency to reopen its proceeding regarding EPA's finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health. He also sought judicial review of EPA's finding in Federal court. His press statement explained, "We cannot allow unelected bureaucrats with political agendas to use falsified data to regulate American industry and drive our economy into the ground".[30] In 2012, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Cuccinelli's arguments, unanimously ruling in Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as part of a strategy to address anthropogenic climate change and that the EPA's finding that "greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare" was well-founded in science and public policy.[31]

In 2010, Cuccinelli announced he would challenge the March 2010 standards for motor vehicle fuel efficiency specified in the Clean Air Act.[32][33][34]

Litigation against climate scientists Main article: Attorney General of Virginia's climate science investigation

In April 2010, Cuccinelli served a civil investigative demand on the University of Virginia seeking a broad range of documents related to Michael E. Mann, a climate researcher now at Penn State who was an assistant professor at UVA from 1999 to 2005.[35][36] Cuccinelli based his demand on the 2002 Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, although no evidence of wrongdoing was given to explain the invocation of the law.[37] Following the Climatic Research Unit email controversy numerous accusations about Mann's work on climate reconstructions had been sent to the university, and investigations of these allegations by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Penn State subsequently cleared Mann of any wrongdoing.[38] The Washington Post quotes Rachel Levinson, senior counsel with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) as saying Cuccinelli's request had "echoes of McCarthyism."[39] A. Barton Hinkle of the Richmond Times-Dispatch criticized Cuccinelli for "employing a very expansive reading of Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act."[40]

Among the groups urging the University of Virginia to resist producing the data were: a letter published in Science signed by 255 members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, the American Civil Liberties Union and the AAUP.[36] Also in May 2010, the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council wrote a letter strongly rebuking Cuccinelli for his civil investigative demand of the Mann records, stating that " action and the potential threat of legal prosecution of scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer-review standards send a chilling message to scientists engaged in basic research involving Earth's climate and indeed to scholars in any discipline."[41] In 2011 in response to the escalating attacks from the Virginia AG's office, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a defense of scientific integrity titled "Timeline: Legal Harassment of Climate Scientist Michael Mann".[42]

In May 2010, the University of Virginia began legal proceedings challenging Cuccinelli's investigative demand. The school's petition states that Virginia's "Fraud Against Taxpayers Act" (FATA) cited by Cuccinelli is not applicable in this case, as four of the five grants were federal, and that the fifth was an internal University of Virginia grant originally awarded in 2001. The filing also states that FATA was enacted in 2003 and is not retroactive.[43][44]

In August 2010, Albermarle Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross heard argument on when Cuccinelli should get the requested data.[45] On August 30, 2010, Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. said that "the nature of the conduct is not stated so that any reasonable person could glean what Dr. Mann did to violate the statute," the judge wrote.[46][47][48]

in September 2010, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sent a new civil subpoena to the University of Virginia renewing a demand for documents related to the work of Mann. Cuccinelli narrowed his request to documents related to a grant that funded research unrelated to climate reconstructions. The demand also sought emails between Mann and 39 other climate change scientists.[49] Cuccinelli filed a notice of appeal of the case to the Virginia Supreme Court, which ruled that Cuccinelli did not have the authority to make these demands. The outcome was hailed as a victory for academic freedom.[50][51]

Campaign contributions

Cuccinelli received $55,500 in campaign contributions from Bobby Thompson, a director of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association (a veterans group under investigation). Thompson was Cuccinelli's second-largest campaign donor.[52][53] After receiving the contribution, Cuccinelli met with Samuel F. Wright, a USNVA representative on February 15, 2010, to discuss legislation which had passed the State Senate that would exempt the group from having to register with Virginia regulators.[54]

After an investigative report in the St. Petersburg Times in March 2010 raised questions about the Navy Veterans Association and Thompson, all other Virginia politicians, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, donated contributions from Thompson to other veterans' organizations. Cuccinelli refused to do so, despite calls from Virginia Democrats. Cuccinelli's spokesman said "if Mr. Thompson was convicted of wrongdoing relative to the misappropriation of funds, and contributions to our campaign came from money that was supposed to go to active duty military or veterans, we would donate those contributions to military support organizations here in Virginia."[53] Sen. Don McEachin asserted that the standard for donations should be "much higher than that."[55] A month later in June, a Cuccinelli spokesman said $55,500 would be set aside in a restricted account pending the outcome of the investigation into Thompson and USNVA.[56] On July 28, 2010, Cuccinelli announced that he would donate the $55,000 to veterans' charities in Virginia. Cuccinelli stated that his decision was prompted by statements from Thompson's lawyers indicating that Thompson could no longer be located.[57]

Virginia seal

In May 2010 Cuccinelli used a historical state seal which shows Virtus, the Roman goddess of bravery and military strength, carrying a breastplate to cover her left breast on lapel pins he provided as gifts to his office staff.[58][59] The current official seal shows Virtus holding a spear and her left breast is exposed. The original state seal was designed by George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and adopted in 1776.[60] Cuccinelli's spokesman, Brian Gottstein, said lapel pins with the breast covered were paid for by Cuccinelli's political action committee, not with taxpayer funds.[61]

In response to media inquiries, Cuccinelli released a statement including the following explanation:[62]

.mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

The seal on my pin is one of many seal variations that were used before a uniform version was created in 1930. I felt it was historic and would be something unique for my staff. My joke about Virtue being a little more virtuous in her more modest clothing was intended to get laughs from my employees – which it did!

Combating usury

Since 2007, the Virginia Attorney General's Office has negotiated settlements of almost $8 million representing refunds from eight auto-title lenders.[63][64] The office filed a lawsuit on May 18, 2010 against CNC Financial Services, Inc., doing business as Cash-N-A-Flash, a Hampton-based auto "title lender," for charging interest rates of 300 percent or more on its loans. This rate is alleged to exceed the 12 percent limit in the Virginia's Consumer Finance Act. However, effective October 1, 2010, Virginia's interest rate limit increased to 264 percent.[63][64][65]

The Attorney General's Office filed two separate lawsuits against two Virginia Beach-based mortgage modification companies for charging customers up to $1,200 in illegal advance fees in exchange for allegedly helping to prevent foreclosure.[66]

Advocacy for veterans

In 2010, Cuccinelli announced plans to introduce a new level of veterans advocacy to the Attorney General's office, including training state agencies how to use the law to better advocate for their clients when it comes to obtaining federal veterans benefits. Cuccinelli said that one of the most important things he could do for veterans was to help speed up the process for them to obtain the services they are eligible for from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Other priority issues include ensuring that veterans have opportunities to become and stay employed in Virginia and working with the Virginia judiciary to determine how best to educate judges on how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury issues affect veterans.[67][68]

Antitrust enforcement

A $173 million settlement was reached with six international manufacturers of computer chips. The settlement resolved claims that the companies engaged in a price-fixing arrangement that cost government purchasers and consumers millions of dollars in overcharges for their chips. Cuccinelli and 32 other state attorneys general participated in the investigation and the settlement of a court case that was first filed in Court in 2006, before Cuccinelli took office.[69]

Extradition of Jens Soering to Germany

Jens Soering, 43, the son of a German diplomat and former Jefferson scholar at the University of Virginia, was convicted in 1990 and sentenced to two life terms for the 1985 first-degree stabbing murders of his then-girlfriend's parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom, in their Bedford County home, and held at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia. Former Gov. Timothy Kaine, on the last day of his administration in January 2010, approved a request from the German government and asked the Justice Department to transfer Soering back to Germany to complete his sentence. Newly elected Gov. Bob McDonnell, along with Cuccinelli, adamantly opposed the transfer. McDonnell formally notified the Justice Department just three days after taking office that it was imperative that Soering serve his time in Virginia and not in Germany, where a US news report said that he could have applied for parole after two years, although parole is only applicable after a minimum 15 years according to the German penal code.[70] On July 7, 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he would not consider transferring Soering to a prison in his home country without the state's "clear and unambiguous" consent.[71][72]

Education policy

On November 24, 2010, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion that police, school administrators, and teachers could search students' cell phones on the basis of reasonable suspicions in order to deter cyberbullying and "sexting". The ACLU and the Rutherford Institute said that Cuccinelli's opinion was in error, lacking a legal foundation.[73][74]

On January 28, 2011, Cuccinelli issued a legal opinion saying that school systems could not charge students the $75 testing fee when students take Advance Placement (AP) tests. Typically, AP courses are offered to academically advanced high school students to teach college-level materials. At the end of the course, students take a nationally administered AP test, and can receive college credit if the test score meets a specified level. Cuccinelli said that public schools were required to provide a free education, so schools could not charge students taking the AP class the exam fee.[75]

Donor intent

In February 2012, Cuccinelli filed a brief in the case of seven Anglican parishes that had left the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia as part of the Anglican realignment, including The Falls Church and Truro Church.[76] Cuccinelli took the side of the departing Anglican churches, arguing that they should be entitled to keep personal property amounting to several million dollars that was donated to the parishes between 2003 and 2007 and marked by the donors as for the use of parishes only, not for the diocese. Cuccinelli made this argument on "donor intent" grounds.[77] "That donor intent is paramount," Cuccinelli argued, "and governs the disposition of property, both real and personal, by one entrusted with its management, is a principle beyond dispute and interwoven throughout the law governing charitable trusts." The Fairfax County Circuit Court should not rule, Cuccinelli concluded, "in violation of the clearly expressed intent of the donors."[78]

The court sided with the diocese, ruling that the properties must be handed over.[79]

Star Scientific tax dispute lawsuit

In March 2013, Cuccinelli's role in a tax dispute case came into question when media reported on a lawsuit between the state of Virginia and Star Scientific, a nutritional supplements company.[80][81] The Washington Post reported that Cuccinelli had failed to disclose investments in Star Scientific for a year; after realizing the oversight, he corrected it and disclosed the holdings.[82] Cuccinelli has disclosed $18,000 in gifts from Star Scientific's chief executive, Jonnie R. Williams.[82] He said he could not return them because they were dinners, vacations, and flights; things that could not be returned.[83] He has sold his stock in the company.[84]

The Washington Post found no evidence that Cuccinelli sought to personally intervene in the lawsuit.[82] In April 2013, Cuccinelli recused himself from the case, hiring private attorneys to defend the state.[85] Cuccinelli subsequently announced that he had discovered the equivalent of $4,500 in additional gifts from Jonnie R. Williams that he had not previously disclosed, including free use of Williams' Smith Mountain Lake vacation lodge in 2010 and 2012.[86] In response, Cuccinelli asked the Commonwealth's attorney to review his disclosure filings.[87] On July 18, 2013, a state prosecutor announced that he had found no evidence that Cuccinelli had violated the law, saying Cuccinelli did not appear to be attempting to conceal the relationship with Williams and he did not intentionally mischaracterize any gifts.[84]

After Bob McDonnell's ties to Williams came under investigation, Cuccinelli urged McDonnell to call a special session of the General Assembly to re-examine disclosure and campaign finance laws. McDonnell, who as governor has the exclusive power to call a special session, declined Cuccinelli's request.[88]

In September 2013, Cuccinelli donated, from his personal money, an amount equivalent to the value of the gifts he received from Williams to charity.[89]

Sex trafficking

Cuccinelli has been a staunch advocate against human trafficking during his time in office, describing it as "one of the most egregious human rights violations".[90] He has slammed popular media for portraying prostitution and other forms of selling sex as "just another career choice".[90] While in the state Senate he created a plan, which he has implemented as attorney general, to crack down on trafficking on the state and served on the Senate Human Trafficking Commission.[91] As attorney general, he has devoted full-time staff in the attorney general's office to prosecute human trafficking,[92] and in May 2013 one of his assistant attorneys general was honored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for breaking up and prosecuting a sex trafficking ring in Fairfax County.[93] The advocacy group Polaris Project named Virginia one of the most improved states in cracking down on human trafficking in 2010 under Cuccinelli's leadership.[94] He made human trafficking legislation his priority in his efforts during the 2013 General Assembly session, teaming up with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in support of three anti-human trafficking bills,[95] all of which were passed and signed into law.[96][97][98][99]

LGBT rights

Cuccinelli opposes homosexuality, describing homosexual acts as "against nature and are harmful to society."[100][101][102] He defended the constitutionality of Virginia laws prohibiting sodomy.[103] In March 2013, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down Virginia's anti-sodomy law in a case involving William Scott MacDonald, a 47-year-old man who solicited, but did not receive, oral sex from a 17-year-old girl, finding it unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas ".[104] On June 25, 2013, Cuccinelli filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to uphold the law, saying the appeals court ruling would release MacDonald from probation and "threatens to undo convictions of child predators that were obtained under this law after 2003."[105][106] Although the statute purported to ban all acts of sodomy and made no mention of age, Cuccinelli said the law is important for prosecutors to be able to "obtain felony charges against adults who commit or solicit this sex act with minors," and noted that the law "is not – and cannot be – used against consenting adults acting in private."[105][107] In October 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Cuccinelli's appeal.[108]

Cuccinelli opposes same-sex marriage.[109] He has argued against the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.[109]

In 2010, Cuccinelli called on Virginia universities to remove "'sexual orientation,' 'gender identity,' 'gender expression,' or like classification, as a protected class within its nondiscrimination policy, absent specific authorization from the General Assembly."[110][100] Virginia Democratic State Senator John Edwards said that Cuccinelli was "turning back the clock on civil rights in Virginia."[111] The American Association of University Professors and the University of Virginia also criticized the opinion.[how?][112] Cuccinelli defended the legal opinion: "Our role isn't in the political arena on this subject. Our role is to give legal advice, to state what the law is."[113] The Washington Post said previous attorneys general of both parties held that local governments could not enact nondiscrimination policies for the same reason that Cuccinelli cited.[9] Republican Governor Bob McDonnell supported the legal reasoning in the opinion.[114] However, he issued Executive Directive One to all state agency heads stating that he would not allow them to discriminate based on sexual orientation.[114][115]

Exoneration of Thomas Haynesworth Main article: Thomas Haynesworth

Cuccinelli was involved in advocating for the exoneration of Thomas Haynesworth, who had served 27 years in prison until new evidence emerged.[116] As attorney general, Cuccinelli argued in court for Haynesworth's exoneration and Cuccinelli hired Haynesworth to work in his office as a clerk.[116][117][118] Haynesworth said Cuccinelli was "an extraordinary guy", having "put it on the line for me",[117] and continues to work in Cuccinelli's office.[119] Shawn Armbrust of the Innocence Project, who helped bring the Haynesworth case to Cuccinelli's office's attention, said Cuccinelli invited Haynesworth to his office and personally apologized for the 27 years Haynesworth spent in jail.[118] George Mason University political scientist Mark Rozell said, "People perceive Cuccinelli as a hard-right figure on a number of issues. They don't tend to see him as having a soft side."[117][120]

2013 run for governor Main article: 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election

After his election as attorney general, it was speculated that Cuccinelli was a potential candidate for governor in the 2013 election[121] or for the United States Senate in 2014. Cuccinelli himself stated that he was considering running for the Senate.[122] Two days later, one of his aides said, "We haven't ruled out anything. He's not actively considering a run for any particular office at the moment. Ken is operating under the assumption that he will run for reelection . He hasn't ruled out any option besides running for president, which he has no desire to do."[123]

On November 30, 2011, The Washington Post reported that Cuccinelli would announce within days that he was running for governor in 2013; the next day, Cuccinelli confirmed that he would run.[124] Cuccinelli said he would continue serving as attorney general during his run. He is the first Attorney General since 1985 to remain in office while seeking the Governorship rather than resign the position while seeking the office, a "custom" that the last six Attorneys General to run for Governor have adhered to.[85]

Cuccinelli lost his gubernatorial election bid to Terry McAuliffe on November 5, 2013, by 56,435 votes, or 2.5% of total ballots cast.[3] The Libertarian Party candidate, Robert Sarvis, received 146,084 votes, or 6.5% of the vote total.[3]

After leaving office

In the 2016 presidential election, Cuccinelli served as an advisor to Ted Cruz's campaign, leading the campaign's effort to win delegates for Cruz at the 2016 Republican National Convention.[125]

In early polls on the 2017 gubernatorial race, Cuccinelli was a frontrunner for the Republican nomination.[126] However, in April 2016, Cuccinelli announced that he would not run for governor in 2017.[127]

In May 2016, Cuccinelli was named general counsel of the FreedomWorks Foundation, where he helps state attorneys general who want to oppose a federal regulation.[128]

In January 2017, Cuccinelli filed a legal brief on behalf of the Virginia Poverty Law Center, challenging a 2015 law which freezes base electricity rates charged by Dominion Power, one of the state's most powerful corporations, and Appalachian Power Company. The basis of the brief is that the law allows these semi-public electric utility companies to charge excess rates. Cuccinelli said "This is a legalized transfer from poorer Virginians to two utility companies. It is unfair and unjust and unconstitutional, and it's bad policy."[129]

USCIS Director (2019–present) Play media 'Press Briefing with Acting Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli' - video from White House

Cuccinelli was appointed to serve as the acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in June 2019.[130]

As the administrator of USCIS, Cuccinelli is in charge of the systems for legal immigration and naturalization. He has said that he regards access to immigration as a privilege, not a right, and that "We are not a benefit agency, we are a vetting agency."[131]

Appointment Controversy

Cuccinelli was appointed Acting Director when leading Senators indicated he had little chance of Senate confirmation as permanent director.[132][133]

The appointment as Acting Director of USCIS may have circumvented the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), according to the Chairs of the House committees on Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Government Oversight.[134] FVRA stipulates eligibility criteria for temporarily filling positions that require Senate confirmation. Before being considered for the position, Cuccinelli had met none of the eligibility critera. In a letter to the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the chairs noted that the administration claimed Cuccinelli had become eligible via a brief appointment to a newly-invented position, the "Principal Deputy Director" of USCIS. The House committee chairs further allege that this brief appointment had been retroactively applied, possibly in violation of the law.[134] The USCIS employees union also challenged the legality of Cuccinelli's appointment.[133]

Tenure in Office

In July 2019, Cuccinelli blamed an asylum seeker for his own death and that of his daughter who were found dead on the banks of the Rio Grande River.[135] He said, "The reason we have tragedies like that on the border is because those folks, that father didn't want to wait to go through the asylum process in the legal fashion, so decided to cross the river".[135] He said in an interview that the administration is prepared to deport approximately 1 million undocumented immigrants who have final removal orders already in place.[136]

On August 12, 2019, Cuccinelli announced a revised regulation, to go into effect October 15, 2019, expanding the public charge requirements for legal immigration. Green cards and visas can be denied if people are likely to need federal, state and local government benefits including food stamps, housing vouchers and Medicaid. When asked, Cuccinelli said "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge." The quote is a literary reference to Emma Lazarus's The New Colossus poem engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Cuccinelli asserted the new requirements were consistent with the public charge laws, which first passed in 1882: the same era as the poem.[137][138][139]

Political views Cuccinelli receiving the "Defender of the Constitution" Award at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2012, for his work as Attorney General of Virginia. Abortion

Cuccinelli opposes a right to terminate a pregnancy.[140][141] In November 2008 he was named the Family Foundation of Virginia "Legislator of the Year."[142] Cuccinelli sponsored a number of bills to discourage abortions, including requiring doctors to anesthetize fetuses undergoing late term abortions,[143] altering the licensing and regulation of abortion clinics,[144] and requiring that a doctor save the fetal tissue when performing an abortion on a woman under age 15, for forensic use.[145] As a state senator, he advanced legislation to make abortion clinics subject to the same health and safety standards as outpatient surgical hospitals.[140] He supported two "personhood" bills that sought to provide human embryos with legal rights.[141]


In 2010, Cuccinelli made statements that appeared to question whether President Obama was born in the United States. He later backed away from the statements.[146][147]


Cuccinelli is a longtime advocate for gun rights.[148] sponsored legislation to repeal the prohibition on carrying a concealed handgun in a restaurant or club,[149] for Virginia to recognize concealed handgun permits from other states,[150] and to shield concealed handgun permit application data from Freedom of Information Act requests.[151] Under Cuccinelli's proposal a person could only be disqualified for such a permit by a court ruling based on the applicant's past actions.[152] In the 2009 legislative session, a bill Cuccinelli introduced was passed that, for the purposes of granting a Virginia concealed handgun permit, required the state to accept as proof of "handgun competence" any certificate from an online handgun safety course featuring an NRA Certified instructor.[153]

Cuccinelli believes that mental illness is the root cause of mass shootings, and that they can be better prevented with more access to mental health care.[148] He has pushed for restricting mentally ill persons from obtaining guns.[19]


Cuccinelli has been described as an immigration hard-liner.[146] He has supported President Trump's anti-immigration policies.[146] While in Virginia politics, Cuccinelli pushed legislation to force employees to speak English in the workplace.[146] He has sought to repeal birthright citizenship.[146] He sought to ban undocumented immigrants from attending Virginia colleges.[154]

Donald Trump

During the 2016 Republican convention, Cuccinelli led an effort to prevent Trump from receiving the Republican presidential nomination.[146] He was a staunch Ted Cruz supporter during the 2016 Republican primaries.[154]


In 2006, Cuccinelli sent out a fundraising letter that criticized the Virginia Senate's Republican majority for passing a gasoline tax increase. The letter elicited rebuke from fellow Republican Tommy Norment.[155] In his 2013 campaign, Cuccinelli proposed cutting the top individual income rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent and the corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent for a total reduction in tax revenue of about $1.4 billion a year. He has stated that he would offset that lost revenue by slowing the growth of the state's general fund spending and by eliminating unspecified tax exemptions and loopholes.[156][157]

Eminent domain

In the 2005, 2006 and 2007 legislative sessions, Cuccinelli worked to pass eminent domain (compulsory purchase) laws that prevented local and state governments from taking private homes and businesses for developers' projects.[158] In April 2010, Cuccinelli told the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce that he wanted to improve the protection of property rights in Virginia's Constitution. "There is no consistency on the application of eminent domain throughout Virginia," he said.[159] In 2012, Cuccinelli championed a constitutional amendment to prohibit eminent domain from being used to take private land for private gain, thus restricting it to being used only for public gain. The amendment was placed on the ballot for a voter referendum in the 2012 general election, and was passed 74%–26%.[160]

Law enforcement

In 2005, Cuccinelli was the chief patron of SB873,[161] legislation that entitled law enforcement officers to overtime pay from local governments for hours worked while on vacation or other leave.[162]

Abstinence-only sex education

Cuccinelli has been a strong advocate of the abstinence-only sex education programs with state funding. He stated "The longer you delay the commencement of sexual activity, you have healthier and happier kids and more successful kids."[163]

Electoral history Virginia Senate Special Election, August 6, 2002 Party Candidate Votes % Republican Ken Cuccinelli 10,041 55.01 Democratic Cathy Belter 8,193 44.89 Independent Write-in candidates 18 0.10 Total votes 18,252 100 Virginia Senate General Election, November 4, 2003 Party Candidate Votes % Republican Ken Cuccinelli 16,762 53.31 Democratic Jim Mitchell 14,658 46.62 Independent Write-in candidates 23 0.07 Total votes 31,443 100 Virginia Senate General Election, November 6, 2007 Party Candidate Votes % Republican Ken Cuccinelli 18,602 50.02 Democratic Janet Oleszek 18,510 49.77 Independent Write-in candidates 73 0.19 Total votes 37,185 100 Virginia Attorney General Election, November 3, 2009 Party Candidate Votes % Republican Ken Cuccinelli 1,124,137 57.51 Democratic Steve Shannon 828,687 42.39 Independent Write-in candidates 1,772 0.09 Total votes 1,954,596 100 Virginia gubernatorial election, 2013[164] Party Candidate Votes % Democratic Terry McAuliffe 1,069,859 47.75% Republican Ken Cuccinelli 1,013,355 45.23% Libertarian Robert Sarvis 146,084 6.52% Write-ins 11,091 0.50% Plurality 56,504 2.52% Personal life

Cuccinelli is married to Teiro Davis, whom he met when she moved into his neighborhood in high school. He took her to the prom, but they went their separate ways after high school until Cuccinelli called her during college. The couple became engaged in their last year of college. They have seven children – two boys and five girls.[118][165] They live in Nokesville, Virginia.[118][166][167]

See also
  • Virginia elections, 2009
  • Virginia elections, 2013
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External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ken Cuccinelli.
  • Attorney General Cuccinelli official government site
  • Ken Cuccinelli for Governor
  • Ken Cuccinelli at the Virginia Public Access Project
  • Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax) at Richmond Sunlight
Senate of Virginia Preceded by
Warren Barry Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 37th district

2002–2010 Succeeded by
Dave Marsden Legal offices Preceded by
Bill Mims Attorney General of Virginia
2010–2014 Succeeded by
Mark Herring Party political offices Preceded by
Bob McDonnell Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia
2013 Succeeded by
Ed Gillespie Political offices Preceded by
Lee Cissna Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

2019–present Incumbent Authority control
  • ISNI: 0000 0004 0256 6438
  • LCCN: no2013026781
  • SUDOC: 175326681
  • VIAF: 298337981
  • WorldCat Identities (via VIAF): 298337981



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