The US Supreme Court's decision today to uphold the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (you know, "Obamacare") including the unpopular if obviously constitutional individual mandate, has a lot of impacts here in Washington state, not the least of which being that it proves once again what what an absolutely crappy lawyer attorney general Rob McKenna really is.
Remember, McKenna was instrumental in initiating the lawsuit that forced today's ruling, and spoke confidently on the campaign trail that he and his fellow attorneys general would prevail. He was wrong.
"Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it."
Even though an overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars had weighed in that the mandate appeared to be constitutional, perhaps it is unfair to use this ruling to impugn McKenna's legal acumen. Perhaps McKenna merely made the political calculation that the conservative majority on the court would ultimately prove be just as politically unprincipled as he is, and thus toss out the ACA regardless of clearly established precedent?
Perhaps. Not that that take is any more flattering.
The point is that under McKenna's leadership the attorney general's office has an established track record of championing losing, politically motivated cases and opinions. In Goldmark v. McKenna he strenuously argued that the AG has the discretion to deny state officers access to an attorney. The state supreme court said otherwise. In 2010 McKenna's office offered the most contorted reinterpretation of the state's minimum wage law imaginable. Labor and Industries took the rare step of ignoring the AG's official opinion: "We really wanted to correctly implement the law," an L&I spokesperson explained. And McKenna has repeatedly been caught making a legal argument in public that completely contradicted the one he or his attorneys were making in court.
Crappy lawyer indeed.