AG McKenna awards $600,000 in bonuses as rest of the state struggles to balance budget

The Republican mantra is that the real problem with the state budget is that state employees simply make too much and enjoy far too generous benefits. If we could just get rid of those damn public employee unions, we could balance our state budget merely by slashing the health care benefits and reducing the pay of state workers.

That’s the type of “fiscal conservatism” we’ve come to expect from Republicans. You know, like Republican state Attorney General Rob McKenna:

  • Total bonus payments within the Attorney General’s office exceeded those of any other state agency. Of the $1.9 million awarded as bonuses to state employees during FY 2009, nearly one-third – $599,000 – went to members of the McKenna’s staff (McKenna has been Attorney General since 2005).
  • The AG’s office awarded larger than average bonuses. While the average performance award for a state employee was $204, members of the AG’s office were awarded bonuses averaging $664 with 55 staffers getting bonuses of $3,000 each.
  • Bonuses were widespread. The AG’s office awarded a total of 901 bonuses to its staff of 1321 staffers, including 55 awards of $3,000 each.
  • Most awards were given during the economic downturn. In fall 2008, Governor Gregoire advised agencies to withhold performance recognition awards, and most agencies complied. However, the AG awarded the vast majority of his awards in February 2009, just as the Legislature was making draconian spending cuts to education and public health programs in an effort to balance the state budget.

Do as I say, not as I do, and all that.


  1. 3

    Blue John spews:

    I liked this paragraph from the link. It sums it up.
    “We’ve lost track of how many times we have heard Republicans both inside and outside of state government claim that state employees are too well paid and that government is wasteful. And yet, here we have a situation where state employees working for a Republican were given bonuses well after it had become painfully clear that we were facing an unprecedented budget crisis.”

  2. 4

    YellowPup spews:


    Hopefully this will be the focus of the negative ads in 2012 (along with the usual ham-handed stuff about Republicans hating children and women), because this tells a very compelling story.

  3. 5

    barata spews:

    Why is this a bad thing? If we pay state employees like crap we’ll get crappy state employees. Although they’re usually wrong or posturing with no real social benefit, the AG’s office is one of the most productive state agencies around.

  4. 6

    SuperSteve spews:


    Do you really think that the AG’s office is so “productive” to justify that the majority of their staff – not just a handful, but more than 2/3 of them – deserve a bonus while other state workers are getting laid off?

    Are they so productive that they deserve bonuses while we’re cutting health care to vulnerable citizens?

  5. 7

    barata spews:


    I don’t know if it’s justified or not – certainly there are many better uses of money – but the point I’m making is that the AG’s office is really productive and always in the headlines doing something. And I bet there’s a big link between the performance/motivation of employees and their compensation system.

    If more state agencies look at compensating employees with bonuses providing they meet pre-determined performance goals … how is this a bad thing?

  6. 8

    Blue John spews:

    “We are lawyers. We are important and high profile. We deserve our bonuses, not like say….those proles who teach kindergarten, work on the DMV road crew or support foster care families.”

  7. 9

    Michael spews:


    If more state agencies look at compensating employees with bonuses providing they meet pre-determined performance goals … how is this a bad thing?

    It’s not a bad thing. It’s the hypocrisy of the situation, that Goldy’s pointing out.

    In other silly Republican news Rep. Bruce Chandler (R) from Granger was the only state Rep. to vote against banning BPA in baby bottles.

  8. 10

    The cold hard truth spews:

    Other than ripping the story off of the PI you forgot to mention the fact that the AG’s office was 20 mil under budget and that 24 other organizations in the state did it as well. Let me guess, it’s ok because they are Dems and they don’t have any chance at the governor’s seat in 2012.

    Leave it to liberals to politicize performance bonuses. This is exactly why we get such poor performance from liberally aligned organizations like teachers unions.

  9. 11

    Michael spews:


    See #9

    It’s the hypocrisy of a party that calls for cut after cut and blames every ill and problem on overpaid government workers, while their elected officials act just like the Democrats that’s the problem.

  10. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @5 It’s not a bad thing. Republicans bashing Democrats for doing the right thing (paying state employees halfway decent wages) is a bad thing. Republican hypocrisy is a bad thing. Republican partisan rhetoric that misleads the public into believing state workers are coddled and overpaid is a bad thing.

  11. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @6 Keep in mind that while 2/3rds of the AGO staff received bonuses, only a tiny percentage got more than token bonuses, and the top bonuses were $3,000 — an amount that would be laughed at in the private sector. Some of those lawyers make or save the state big bucks, for example, by winning multi-million-dollar lawsuits. While the talent of the lawyers employed by the AGO varies widely, there’s no doubt that office has some top talent who could do much better working for a private law firm, and it’s false economy to get so cheap with them that they walk away.

  12. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The AGO is one the only state agency I know of that negotiates salaries individually with its employees, like private businesses and law firms do. Virtually all other state agencies are locked into a statewide salary schedule. This flexibility gives the AG some ability to retain effective litigators and lawyers handling highly complex work, rather than just training new lawyers for law firms, who walk away after getting two or three years of experience under their belts.

  13. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @10 It’s the hypocrisy, dummy! If you criticize us for doing it, then we’ll criticize you for doing it. What goes around, comes around.

  14. 16

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    I suggest you take a hard look at Governor Gregoire’s own office budget and the 41+ staffers that make TOTAL COMPENSATION (Salary/Benefits/Paid Time-off) of over $150,000. Gary Locke only had 7!
    She snuck huge increases in early…whereas other Depts. did not.

    Perhaps Goldy, the WHOLE PICTURE might be worthwhile for a change.
    I’m just sayin’!!

  15. 17

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    And how about Barry “The Magic messiah” Obam-Mao and his convoluted partial Budget freeze…freezing things that had already be given 10% increases!
    What a jackass.
    Obam-Mao really thinks he can fool the people with his magic words.

    He’s really fooling folks according to the Democrat-leaning Rasmussen Poll–

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14

    One would expect with just a mediocre SOU speech, Obam-Mao could cut this from -14 to -7.
    Let’s see how effective he is.
    If his first act of the phoney Freeze is any indication where he is taking this country, we are in huge trouble!

  16. 18

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    $20mil under budget….how’s that? Are they actually doing their job? Or do these GOP appointees kneecap anybody foolish enough to sue the state?

    But McKenna has pretty much undermined the wingnut talk about “overpaid” state employees. Sure, our state’s attorneys’ salaries do not match the private sector (i.e., those attorneys who are not broke or have abandoned the practice of law), but then blowing your cork because someone who changes the sheets at one of our state mental institutions gets $12/hr. hardly seems appropriate….not that such considerations ever stopped a wingnut from blowing their cork.

  17. 19

    Matty spews:

    Gawd, if only other state employees were incentive based instead of entitlement based! The AG’s office is far more productive than other state employees.

    Now, maybe if we had a few less entitlement cultured union employees we could lighten the load up on the AG’s office a bit.

    Way to go McKenna!

  18. 20

    uptown spews:

    @19 What entitlement?

    Step increases are pre-negotiated salary increases. When you get hired you know what the steps are and make a decision on whether the future steps make up for the lower starting salary.

  19. 21

    uptown spews:

    The AG’s office is far more productive than other state employees.

    Better at sucking up to the AG is more like it. Got to make the AG look good on TV so he can fun for Gov. Wonder how many of his little workers/lawyers will jump ship to private practice just before he runs, so they can help his campaign.

  20. 22

    Steve spews:

    @16 “I suggest you take a hard look”

    Take a hard look at the wingnut hypocrisy.


    The whole picture would include wingnut hypocrisy and your unwillingness to do anything about it, discuss it, or to even acknowledge it’s existence.

  21. 23

    lauramae spews:

    Maybe Susanna Frame and that bellowing blowhard Ken Schram should focus their laser like “intelligence” on this instead

  22. 24

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    @19: You work at WalMart and never complain, right?

    It takes two to tango, dipstick.

    We would have a much better country if we didn’t have millions of dimwits running around thinking they’d “made it all on their own”, “did it all by themselves”, “don’t own anybody anything”, and are thereby “entitled” to higher status, more power, and lower taxes than your everyday run of the mill citizen.

    And you speak to us about an “entitlement culture” because the union negotiated the right to take a bathroom break without getting their pay docked.


  23. 25

    mike spews:

    “Gawd, if only other state employees were incentive based instead of entitlement based!”

    UW faculty (thousands of them!) are merit-based and despite being “meritorious” don’t get raises. In fact they’re already underpaid relative to those at peer schools.

  24. 26

    Kevin spews:

    So…. did Ms. … I mean Mr. Dori Monson have anything to say about this? I bet if he did or does, that it will be one of those quick comments and he won’t take any callers on the subject. Or…. he will find a way to blame Democrats or the Gov.

  25. 27

    don spews:

    The AG’s office is far more productive than other state employees.

    What? Just a day or two ago, one of your ilk posted that state government “produces nothing”. How can the AG’s office be more productive if they produce nothing? And if the AG’s office is so much more productive, then where’s the kudos to Gregoire when she ran the office and produced a tobacco settlement that saved this state millions of dollars in health care costs?

    You can always count on righties to produce plenty of steaming piles of pretzel logic.

  26. 28

    Max Rockatansky spews:

    @27….what happened to all that tobacco money anyway? can you say “pissed away into the general fund”?

    the tobacco lawsuit was yet another govt scam to get paid….and then they just blew the money rather than spend it on what they were supposed to.

    how the fuck anybody trust our state or federal govt with our money is beyond me.