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.