One of the facts of political life for a state attorney general is that you never know when fate will deal you a perfect lawsuit to defend. Such is the case for Washington's Rob McKenna, who was arguing before the Supreme Court earlier this week that initiative signers don't get to protect their identities.
Not only does the case get McKenna national publicity. He gets to oppose a right wing windbag with the wonderful name of James Bopp, Jr., thus helping McKenna to restore his moderate credentials. He gets conservative justices providing sound bites in support of the McKenna arguments, such as this gem from Justice Antonin Scalia:
The fact is that running a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage. And the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism or even nasty phone calls when you exercise your political rights.
It gets still better. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made mincemeat of lawyer Bopp, pointing out that these signatures are regularly sold and used for fundraising purposes and getting Bopp to gulp and reverse course on several other arguments.
And did I mention that McKenna is on the side of gay-rights activists in this case? They are the ones who benefit by being able to have access to the signatures in this case, which was an initiative opposing domestic partnership benefits.
All this might be enough to help McKenna get over the bad publicity around his decision to join other states in suing to overturn aspects of Obamacare as being violative of states rights. But that story too may turn out to be a political gift that keeps on giving. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has asked the state Supreme Court to require McKenna to withdraw his lawsuit. Facing up to liberal grandstanders in Seattle is not exactly the worst path to the governorship.
Fortunately for Holmes, an independently elected city attorney, the Olympia justices will not think of telling an independently elected attorney general how to conduct his business.
Maybe it will get even better for McKenna. Holmes might decide to start an initiative campaign, yielding up all kinds of signatures for McKenna supporters to harass!