Playing the Deborah Senn card

Having failed to interest our media in the precedent setting legal issues surrounding Goldmark v. McKenna (Attorney General Rob McKenna will lose on his extra-statutory claims), and having no success in enticing the press on the broader policy issue underlying the case (did our legislature really intend to give the Attorney General the discretion to deny state officers due process?), I’ve been reduced to appealing to our media’s political sensibilities.

In other words, I’m playing the Deborah Senn card.

We all know that our media establishment just loves Rob McKenna. Well, no, they don’t just love McKenna, they’re in love with him and his open-records-defending, reporter-shield-law-touting, faux-moderate, different-kinda-Republican, geeky good looks. Through the adoring eyes of our media’s adolescent crush, McKenna is downright dreamy… in that bipartisanship-besotted, we-haven’t-elected-a-Republican-to-the-governor’s-mansion-since-1980 sorta way.

They simply believe McKenna to be the McKenna they want and need him to be. That’s the nature of infatuation.

But as much as they trust McKenna’s legal judgment in this case, and as much as they may even trust McKenna to use his broadly claimed discretionary powers with, well, discretion, it is important to remind my friends in the media that he won’t always be Attorney General. Indeed, if not for a several million dollar smear campaign at the hands of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, our current Attorney General might be Deborah Senn.

And would the thus far silent Seattle Times editorial board, for example, really trust such expansive discretionary powers in the hands of an unabashedly partisan Democrat like Senn?

Would they really trust Senn to solely determine which initiatives to defend, on which elections cases Secretary of State Sam Reed deserves legal representation, and whether State Auditor Brian Sonntag should have access to the courts to compel government agencies to comply with audits? Would they really trust Senn with the power McKenna claims, as the Iowa Supreme Court described it, to deprive all government agencies of access to the court “except by his grace and with his consent”…?

In our society and under our system of law the nature, scope, indeed the very existence of all rights and obligations turn on what would be decreed if those involved went to court. Governmental departments and agencies, in common with individuals, must ultimately resort to the courts and must submit to the court’s decrees to effectuate their acts or to be made to comply with the lawful acts of others. Access to the courts gives life to the affairs of governmental departments and agencies. For government to properly function that access must be unimpeded.

To accord the attorney general the power he claims would leave all branches and agencies of government deprived of access to the court except by his grace and with his consent. In a most fundamental sense such departments and agencies would thereby exist and ultimately function only through him.

I actually like Deborah Senn. I enthusiastically voted for her, and I would trust her to defend the public interest. But even I would be uncomfortable handing her such extraordinary powers, let alone Rob McKenna.

So my question is: if it were Senn, not McKenna, who was making this unprecedented, extra-statutory claim, would our media remain so silent?

Somehow, I don’t think so.


  1. 1


    It’s more than that, actually.

    In the 2004 AG race, one of the pillars of Deborah’s campaign was that she would be “the people’s lawyer”, that the AG should represent the interests of us all … not merely the agencies of the state government.

    I’m all but certain that, amongst the many fawning Times editorials backing McKenna, Blethen pointed to Deborah’s idea as a reason to oppose her. They may have even suggested that she didn’t really understand the duties and responsibilities of the AG under the state constitution.

    And, to be honest, that just might be correct. But it’s just as correct about Rob McKenna as they feared it might have been about Deborah Senn. (More so, actually, since he’s actually in office.)

  2. 3

    The Ump spews:

    It’s a great argument Goldy, and I agree with you with only one big exception. As bad as McKenna is, I believe Senn would have been worse (though in very different ways). Even so, you have once again shone a needed bright spotlight on the shameless hypocrisy of the Seattle Times. I sure wish there were some way to know if they read you.

  3. 5

    proud leftist spews:

    Like your proposal here, Goldy, the Rs love to expand such things as the reach of executive privilege when they have a guy like Bush in charge. When the Ds take over, however, all the sudden they have a complete paradigm shift and they believe a minority of the legislative branch should be able to block anything from happening, either administratively or legislatively.

  4. 7

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    “we-haven’t-elected-a-Republican-to-the-governor’s-mansion-since-1980 sorta way.”

    The reason we haven’t is because Republicans are assholes. During the Reagan Depression, when our sales-tax-dependent state government faced another of its periodic cash crunches when consumers pulled in their spending, Washington’s last Republican governor, John Spellman, ensured he would be a one-term governor by giving state workers less than 24 hours notice that it would be two months before they saw another paycheck.

    As a public relations stunt, Spellman publicly asked banks and other lenders to give state workers who couldn’t pay their mortgages, car loans, and other obligations a “grace period” from late payment fees. Not one financial institution did.

    And, in a spirit of meanness of which only Republicans are capable, Spellman ordered DSHS to deny food stamps to any state workers who applied for them. This not only exceeded the governor’s authority, but violated federal law. A fairly large number of state workers did qualify for food stamps while they weren’t being paid, and legal aid attorneys sued on their behalf. They won in court, but it took them two years to get their food stamps.

    Meanwhile, let ‘em eat cake.

    Why did Spellman do it? The state had the money to pay the workers. But by keeping that money in the bank, the state earned $4 million in extra interest. That was Spellman’s publicly stated rationale for doing this to the 100,000-strong state workforce: To make a lousy, stinking, $4 million of interest with the workers’ money that was a mere drop in the bucket. The budget shortfall ran into the hundreds of millions. Everyone at the time knew Spellman’s real reason for doing it was simply because he was being a prick.

    Spellman was a Republican, and McKenna is a Republican, and all Republicans are alike. They hate workers, period. They hate government, period. If they can shut down government and fuck over government workers in one fell swoop, that’s a two-fer. Too much for any Republican to resist. Kind of like a Nazi death camp guard raping a Jewish prisoner before murdering her. Some temptations are just too great to resist.

    I can see where a devil-worshiping, choir boy-molesting, Hitler-loving winger might like Spellman, McKenna, and their Republican ilk. Guys like them are right up their alley. But sane human beings? Not a chance! No sane person would ever vote Republican.

    That’s why we haven’t elected a Republican to the governor’s mansion since 1980. And you gotta wonder what was wrong with the Reagan voters back in 1980 who did.

  5. 8

    Geov spews:

    I recognize this argument. It’s the exact same argument some of us used to decry George Bush’s vast expanse of presidential powers and erosion of civil liberties a few years ago. “Yes,” we said, “But would you be as enthusiastic if it were Hillary Clinton or some other Democratic president entrusted with these powers, as it surely will be one day if this precedent stands?”

    And, of course, they kept defending it, and the precedent stood, and now the alarmed Usual Suspects decry Obama as Hitler, or Stalin, or something, for using the powers Bush and Cheney gave him.

    Short answer: the argument is solid, but it won’t work. Logic doesn’t apply here. It runs up against the most ironclad rule in the wingnut (and, apparently, Seattle Times) moral universe: IOKIYAR.

  6. 10

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    You need help with your obvious “paranoia”.

    N in Seattle–
    If Deborah were the “people’s lawyer”, she would have done precisely what McKenna did in appealing ObaMao Care. Right? I mean, “the people” want it repealed…Gregoire doesn’t.
    “The people’s” lawyer. You can’t have it both ways.

  7. 11

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Rog @ 7–
    I’d rather have an “asshole” in the Governor’s Mansion than an incompetent union hack.
    Here is yet another sample of what Democrat INCOMPETENCE has cost us taxpayers–


    $6.4 Million because 4 women were killed because of YOUR party’s incompetence.

    4 dead
    $6.4 Million wasted.

    Gimmee an asshole anyday.

  8. 12


    Cynical slobbers @10:

    If Deborah were the “people’s lawyer”, she would have done precisely what McKenna did in appealing ObaMao Care. Right? I mean, “the people” want it repealed…Gregoire doesn’t.

    No, of course she wouldn’t have joined the Florida AG’s idiocy. “The people” don’t want to repeal extending health insurance to millions of Americans. What you don’t {want to} understand is that a significant portion of the “opposition” to the bill that was passed comes from people who understand that it’s far too weak.

    To say nothing about the legal farce of attempting to sue in a situation where no “damages” can even remotely be argued … because the provisions McCollum purports to be unconstitutional won’t go into effect until 2014.


    “The people’s” lawyer. You can’t have it both ways.

    is exactly the point that I was making. And that Goldy was making. I’m happy to see that you disagree with the IOKIYAR viewpoint espoused by so many of your troglodytic colleagues.

  9. 13

    Mike Jones spews:

    Didn’t the PI endorse McKenna over Senn, in 2004, that really opened my eyes to the race, if the PI endorses the Republican you know the Dem must be bad. Other than the lawsuit against HRC I liked the job he has been doing. He isn’t nuts like Rossi or other Republicans in this state. My favorite McKenna moment was when at the 2008 state GOP convention they wanted to add a plank to their platform stating children of illegals should be stripped of their citizenship and he was like, you can’t do that.
    I think its amazing how he won all but two counties in 2008.

    I proably wouldn’t have voted for him as Governor as that is a much more partisian office and he is still a conservative but if he changes his mind on this lawsuit and runts for AG in 2012, I could see myself voting for him.