McKenna’s Suits Against the Republican Party and BIAW

October 7, 2008

Yesterday’s entry about the lawsuit against the Republican Party drew a comment that warrants notice. James Tierney of Columbia Law School’s National State Attorney General Program saluted Rob McKenna’s decision to bring the lawsuit against the Republican Party. I perhaps did not call attention to my recognition of this decision as a commendable action. Earlier I praised McKenna for suing the B.I.A.W., a major Republican contributor.

Mr. Tierney says that it was appropriate for the Attorney General’s office to bring the action instead of having an independent law firm pursue it. This is certainly something beyond my expertise, but the decision does at least raise a question of a conflict of interest. Given the wide ranging responsibility of the Attorney General’s Office, I am sure that this comes up with some frequency and that it has been adequately resolved in terms of professional responsibility.

My question is that given the appearance of what might commonly, not professionally, be viewed as a conflict of interest, the A.G.’s decision not to pursue immediate action, as is sought in the lawsuit by the two former state supreme court justices, is politically questionable. The citizen suit makes it appear that the A.G.’s office might be going lightly on the case by not seeking immediate remedies.

I should emphasize that there probably is a perfectly sound basis for not seeking the relief sought in the citizen’s suit. In fact the citizen’s suit asks the court for emergency permission to gather evidence so the matter can be decided shortly. The A.G.’s office may very well have determined that there was no such evidence or that the search for such evidence was inappropriate in light of the immanence of the election.

Much of this speculation, however, might have been avoided by hiring outside counsel to pursue the lawsuit. There is certainly nothing impermissible about the Attorney General’s office handling the case, but in the emotional charged context of this election, it may have been prudent to avoid the faintest question about the role of politics in the decisions regarding the litigation.

Illegal Money for Republicans in Washington

September 17, 2008

Dino Rossi’s (the Washington Republican candidate for governor)  attack dog the B.I.A.W. suffered a setback at the hands of the Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission. According to reports B.I.A.W.’s cash machine, BIAW Member Services, illegally funneled $500,000 into attacks on Gregoire.

The P.I.’s report has the growling, barking, sputtering, red-faced, dissembling response of the BIAW spokesman. Read the response carefully. There is absolutely no intelligible explanation for the event in question, just knee jerk conspiracy rantings and ravings. These guys are dangerous in that rationality is just not in their frame of reference.

The most interesting step comes next: the matter is referred to Rob McKenna, the Attorney General, and beneficiary of this groups slobbering assaults on decency. Mr. McKenna is to decide whether the State will proceed against the BIAW subsidiary. Talk about being asked to bite the paw that feeds you.

Campaign Finances

February 21, 2008

The Wall Street Journal has in interesting article on finances and the two campaigns of nomination for the Democratic Party candidacy, particularly the measures being taken by the Clinton campaign. Remember at the beginning of the campaign when it was said that Clinton modeled her tactics after those of Bush; that is, to amass a war chest that would overwhelm the resources of every opponent. Super Tuesday, where she fought Obama to a virtual draw, marked the depletion of that war chest. Since then Obama has won every primary and has been attracting money at about a $1 million a day pace, far outdistancing Clinton. Clinton is shackled by campaign finance laws insofar as she has big money backers who have already given the maximum allowable amount $2300 and tapped out their networks of donors.

There is speculation that Clinton’s campaign will shift into attack mode in an effort to change the momentum of the campaign. In this light Clinton’s backers now seem to be falling into step with those of Bush’s supporters in 2004 by forming a 527 group of questionable legality. These groups were given an exemption form campaign contribution limits with the proviso that they were prohibited from influencing elections. Swift Boaters determined that violating the constraint was worth the post-election fines and such groups are commonly regarded as a thinly veiled means of avoiding campaign financing laws.

The spin on this has begun as well with Clinton’s spokesman Howard Wolfson saying that Obama used a 527 in California and that it spend millions on his campaign. In truth he had asked all 527’s supporting him to cease operating and the California group spent about $50,000, not the millions attributed to it by the Clinton campaign.

Two interesting question emerge: How will Obama stand up under the pressure of attack?; and What limits will Clinton put on the attack?