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March 25, 2007

Who Was the Mysterious Washington State "Political Lead" in the McKay Firing? and Other Burning Questions...

The AP's Gene Johnson has written up a very compelling piece that includes a timeline on the last two years of McKay's tenure as US attorney, and then raises some serious unanswered questions. For example, what really happened in the three weeks between August 2006, when Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, went to bat for McKay on a federal judgeship saying, "it's unlikely we could do better in Seattle" and September 13, when Sampson listed McKay as one of the USAs the Justice Department should dump? That's quite a turnaround, in both time and attitude.

McKay got lots of pushback when he sent a letter to Deputy AG Paul McNulty (August 30) lobbying for more help in getting funds to expand the LinX system, a law-enforcement information-sharing program he was chosen to chair. There was also consternation among some in the DOJ that McKay wasn't seeking tough enough sentences on people his office had successfully prosecuted. McKay dismisses the notion that either of those two complaints is the real reason he was fired, which can only lead us to the natural question: Was McKay booted for not going after the state Democrats for voter fraud in the 2004 governor's election?

And what's the real reason McKay wasn't put on the short list for John Coughenour's federal court seat? Maybe it has something to do with one of the Republicans who was chosen to co-chair the judicial selection commission.

Last spring, Hastings appointed J. Vander Stoep, an old friend who had served on previous judicial selection commissions, as co-chairman of the one vetting Coughenour's potential replacements. Vander Stoep was a top advisor to Rossi's campaign.

Vander Stoep opposed McKay's inclusion on the list of possible replacements because McKay didn't answer his question on judicial philosophy to his satisfaction. McKay, said Vander Stoep, wasn't enough of a Bush guy. This, of course, is patently ridiculous when one considers that McKay was a famous supporter of the Patriot Act, and loved by the people in law enforcement. Not to mention, his most recent Justice Department evaluation couldn't have been more glowing. But Vander Stoep, apparently, had a point to prove. He told former Senator Slade Gorton -- who, according to the article, was "outraged" at McKay's exclusion from the judgeship consideration -- that McKay didn't have the proper experience because he'd tried fewer than 10 cases. That's another dubious claim, when one considers that, before becoming US attorney, McKay had been the top litigator at Lane Powell Spears and Lubersky. McKay also related to the commission the details of 14 cases he had been directly involved in.

Not surprisingly, Jenny Durkan remembers things differently from Vander Stoep:

Durkan, the Democratic co-chairwoman of the commission, and a lawyer for Gov. Chris Gregoire during the election, said McKay was obviously qualified to make the commission's short list. She also said Vander Stoep's account of the interview "does not comport with my recollection."

Vander Stoep's participation on the commission, after his deep involvement with the Rossi campaign, raises a blazing red flag. It's common knowledge by now that the entire state GOP hierarchy was on the warpath for McKay because of Rossi's election loss. On the other hand, I have to wonder why Durkan was chosen too, considering her deep involvement with the court case over the vote counts. Plus, she's a childhood friend of McKay's. I think there's at least the appearance of conflict of interest for both, due to the fact that McKay, as US attorney for Seattle, was an obvious choice for the judgeship short list. Still, there are other unanswered questions.

In a Decemeber 4, 2006 email, Sampson tells then-White House counsel Harriet Miers of the protocol DOJ came up with for notifying home-state Republicans of the impending firings of their USAs. This was the protocol:

-AG calls Kyl

-Harriet/Bill call Ensign and Domenici

-White House OPA calls California, Michigan, Washington "leads"

The fact that the White House OPA -- Karl Rove's Office of Political Affairs -- was chosen to call the Washington "leads" is clear evidence that Rove was already in the loop on the entire USAs matter. But curiously, as the AP article points out:

Also unanswered: who was the White House's "political lead" in Washington state, to be notified of McKay's firing? State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Hastings, Rep. Dave Reichert, Vander Stoep, then-state GOP chairwoman Diane Tebelius, and Mike McKay have all denied knowing who it was. Rossi did not return calls for this story.

So, who was the political lead? Among a myriad of mysteries in this whole affair, I think that little mystery is begging to be solved.

Posted by shoephone on March 25, 2007 at 02:16 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

Comments

So, who was the political lead?

I vote for Hastings. I hope you're keeping track.

Posted by: op99 | Mar 25, 2007 7:19:36 AM

Well well well, isn't that all fascinating. Thanks, shoe, for another excellent post, as well as the link to the AP story. This passage most intrigues me there:

"The Democratic members of the commission - attorneys Helen Howell, John Wolfe and Jenny Durkan - were surprised when they saw the makeup of the Republican side.

"They expected King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng to be involved. Maleng is one of the most respected Republicans in the state on law enforcement matters and had served on other judicial selection commissions.

"Vander Stoep and Hastings' chief of staff, Todd Young, said Maleng wasn't invited because Hastings likes to mix up the commission members, so the same people aren't always picking candidates for the bench.

"Maleng is an outspoken fan of McKay, and almost certainly would have voted for him. A candidate needs four votes to advance. McKay got three, all from the Democrats."

On the basis of that passage, I agree with op: Hastings for prime suspect as "political lead." Right or wrong on that one, he's clearly in this up over his beady li'l eyeballs and more than likely not only stacked the deck of the judicial commission but ordered Cassidy's call to McKay. In short, he's a dirtbag.

Who's available to run either against him or in a special election if this takes him out "betimes"?

Posted by: lotus | Mar 25, 2007 8:18:23 AM

This post is just another reason why Evergreen Politics is a must read. Thanks for the detail Shoephone.

Posted by: Particle Man | Mar 25, 2007 10:39:58 AM

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