WHAT THE AD SAYS
The 30-second ad features a woman who speaks to the camera and says: “You know how you meet someone? He seems nice enough. You think, ‘Well, maybe.’ Then you actually check him out online, and he isn’t at all who he says he is.”
The woman goes on: “Republican Rob McKenna is one of those guys. He’s like, ‘Trust me, I’m a moderate.’ But it turns out McKenna raised money for George W. Bush and chaired the McCain-Palin campaign. He even filed a lawsuit that would have denied women access to birth control and cancer screening. Yeah, right, Republican Rob McKenna. You’re definitely not who you say you are.’’
Our Washington is an independent-expenditure group backed by $3 million from the Democratic Governors Association and money from teachers unions. State campaign- finance reports show it has spent or intends to spend nearly $5.2 million in opposition to McKenna. The group has a website – therealmckenna.com – that cites four sources for its ad claims.
Meredith Kenny of the state Republican Party disputed the ad’s content, saying it uses “clumsy, guilt-by-association tactics” and is inaccurate. Rob McKenna and his campaign also disputed the claims.
• It’s true that McKenna, as attorney general, joined other state attorneys general in a lawsuit that sought to strike down the federal Affordable Care Act. Their lawsuit put at risk the law’s insurance coverage guarantees for millions of women.
McKenna has said he preferred a more limited legal challenge but was overruled by his counterparts. He says he supports certain parts of federal health care reform, but was opposed to the requirement that everyone must buy insurance or pay a tax penalty because he felt it was outside Congress’ authority under the Constitution.
The ad’s claims rely on a March 2011 article in The Columbian newspaper, which described McKenna’s appearance at a Republican event in Vancouver and his comments about the health care lawsuit. The story says McKenna was one of the first attorneys general to join the lawsuit, but it does not say anything about its impact on women.
Our Washington also cites an April 2012 document prepared by the White House Council on Women and Girls. The report says that as of February 2012 more than 20 million women had already received some of these preventive services because of the health reform law. Striking down the act would have denied that ongoing coverage.
• McKenna says he has no recollection of ever raising money for Bush and that in 2004 he would have been instead focused on his own race for attorney general.
Our Washington cites as its source a May 21 story by The Associated Press, which had requested public records from McKenna’s time on the King County Council.
The story mentions handwritten notes from McKenna’s staff – found amid the public records from 2002 – that refer to a group called Progress for America. This was a group that worked to further Bush’s policies, and it had a separate political arm that worked to re-elect Bush in 2004.
Documents that AP reporter Mike Baker unearthed at the time make references to calls McKenna would make to potential Republican donors on behalf of Progress for America. Another document refers to the group’s grass-roots campaign for “Enacting the 2002 legislative agenda of President George W. Bush.’’
One email to McKenna and allies from a Washington, D.C., consultant asks him to suggest names to sign up for a Progress for America dinner with Karl Rove, Bush’s political tactician.
• On the claim that McKenna campaigned for the McCain-Palin ticket, he says he took on the role of honorary state chairman long before former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin became the running mate. Once McCain chose not to campaign in Washington after the primary, “that was the end of it.”
An Aug. 13, 2008, press release from the McCain campaign announcing its “Washington’s grassroots leadership team” lists McKenna as the honorary state chairman. Two weeks later, McCain added Palin to his campaign.
The ad is partly true.
McKenna joined a lawsuit that could have led to invalidating the entire Affordable Care Act, despite his stated intention to invalidate only two elements of the law. If the original authors of the suit had won, guaranteed health coverage would have gone away for millions of men and women – including coverage of contraceptive services at no extra cost in private insurance plans.
The suit also could have eliminated guarantees for screening and other preventive services.
The claim that McKenna raised money for President Bush is unproved. It relies on secondhand documents to make references to something that might have happened in 2002 but that McKenna denies 10 years later.
As for the assertion that McKenna chaired the McCain-Palin campaign, it is basically true – although couched in such a way as to imply a bigger role for McKenna and a direct endorsement of Palin’s run for vice firstname.lastname@example.org 360-753-1688 www.theolympian.com/politicsblog