If any question remained regarding Attorney General Rob McKenna’s decision to join the lawsuit to stop Obama-care–an act of pure principle? or pure political grandstanding?–all doubt was removed this past weekend, as the once-moderate Republican showed up to collect adoration at a Tea Party rally in Olympia.
“My name is Rob McKenna and I represent you!” the AG declared to the nearly 1,000 citizens gathered on Saturday, all of them strongly opposed to health care.
But if McKenna has made a successful grab for the GOP’s right-wing hoi polloi, he hasn’t had quite such success in winning over his party’s most generous funder. Far from it.
The Building Industry Association of Washington, which essentially bankrolled the gubernatorial campaigns of Republican real-estate broker Dino Rossi in 2004 and 2008, has been hating on McKenna nonstop for months.
They call him a lackey of Chris Gregoire (“[he] would never dare to buck an order from the Boss Lady”), a RINO (Republican in name only), and “more liberal than a liberal.” The blunt-talking trade group for the home-construction industry has even suggested it would support (gasp) Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee for governor over McKenna, and joked about launching the Web site AnybodyButRobMcKennaForGovernor.com.
Why such animus? It’s not exactly all about policy differences. McKenna has been aggressively pursuing a campaign-finance investigation of the BIAW that seeks to extract almost a million dollars in penalties. In response, the BIAW has practically turned its blog, The Hammer, into a daily feed of anti-McKenna invective.
But then of course the BIAW also hates the health-care plan. So how do you respond when the guy you hate the most does exactly what you want? Those of us who love the entertainment offered by the BIAW were on tenterhooks all last week, as BIAW chief Tom McCabe maintained stony silence. At long last, he came through with an angry post. Yep, the BIAW still hates McKenna—this time for the AG’s expressed willingness to represent Gregoire and the state in opposing his own lawsuit. In other words, as a lawyer, he’ll be on both sides of the issue.
The BIAW could be forgiven for a delayed reaction. On Friday, one of the group’s board members—a Bellevue luxury-home developer named Grey Lundberg—was charged with 13 felony counts of first-degree theft. Lundberg allegedly collected some $629,000 in sales tax from buyers of his homes, and then just pocketed the money rather than passing it to the state.
Rob McKenna may have no clear beliefs or principles, as the BIAW suggests. But at least, it seems, the officers of the tax-hating, government-loathing BIAW are staying true to theirs.