It's an old truism: It helps to be in office to run for office. Better yet, it helps to be in an office where you can dole out lots of money. Case in point: Rob McKenna. Yesterday, the Republican state attorney general and would-be governor had a perfect photo op as he announced the winners of a $43.8 million giveaway.
These are not organizations that represent the the Republican party's natural base. One winner is El Centro de la Raza, which plans to use its $600,000 to counsel Latinos facing foreclosure. Another is the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, which is getting $2 million to help people with chronic health conditions stave off foreclosure. A Tacoma blight-prevention program scored some funding, as did a couple organizations that will help low- and moderate-income people buy bank-owned homes. (See full list of winners.)
"Outstanding proposal!" McKenna would frequently say as he called upon representatives from the various organizations. As he awarded Lifelong AIDS Alliance its funds, he noted he'd been "volunteering with that organization for 20 years" (although he still hasn't come around to supporting gay marriage).
Of course, rival Jay Inslee isn't content to let McKenna lap up all the positive PR. While the Democratic Congressman didn't comment about yesterday's affair, he has already tried to use the issue against McKenna.
A couple weeks ago, in response to an ad from an organization of state realtors thanking McKenna for his efforts on behalf of homeowners, Inslee's campaign sent out a missive blasting the attorney general's record. "Thanks for nothing," said the release, which suggested that McKenna was in bed with mortgage profiteers.
The Inslee campaign didn't actually pick apart the most recent settlement. Instead it reached back to a previous settlement with subprime king Ameriquest. The statement charged:
McKenna's 2006 deal with subprime mortgage giant Ameriquest netted some homeowners $600, cold comfort for thousands who lost their homes as a result of deceptive mortgage practices. What did Ameriquest get? A prohibition against homeowners suing on their own. One Seattle attorney said McKenna was "essentially giving away the whole farm."
The statement also accused Inslee of raking in campaign contributions from Washington Mutual while New York's attorney general was launching an investigation into the bank's mortgage practices.
It's certainly true that New York's then attorney general Andrew Cuomo (now governor) was more aggressive when it came to Washington Mutual. (McKenna spokesperson Janelle Guthrie says New York has stronger laws that allows it to go after a federally-chartered bank, as was Washington Mutual.) And, yes, individuals didn't end up getting that much from Ameriquest (although the average was roughly $1,100, not $600, according to McKenna's office at the time).
That national settlement was, however, then one of the biggest of its kind, totally $325 million.
Now along comes a $25 billion settlement, what the attorneys general who worked on it called "the largest multistate settlement since the tobacco settlement in 1998." Inslee is facing an uphill battle trying to create some negative spin around that one.