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Mike McKay, the Port of Seattle, and the History of the US Attorney of Western Washington

Former US Attorney Mike McKay has just made headlines locally in his Port funded audit of contracting practices, done concurrently with a Bush administration DOJ criminal investigation.

Seattle Times Story

I'm going to be critical of McKay, and draw inferences on problems in the office from his career, including those of his brother's tenure in the same position of the authority more recently, and famously. The trajectory of McKay's life may well be the best indicator of the degradation of the once fine tradition of moderate conservatism in this State, including his former boss King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng and former Governor/Evergreen College President Dan Evans.

McKay's moderate Republican credentials have a foundation worthy of pride.

Currently McKay is a director of the national Legal Services Corporation which administers low income legal support funds throughout the US. As US Attorney he did prosecute the first flag burning case, but was also a leader on prosecuting environmental abusers. Before working for Maleng he worked in private practice, including on the WPPSS default (an ongoing interest of mine, unfortunately no details are available on the web for that story) - his successful firm at the time counted among its employees Mark Sidran - another indicative legal career.

At this time though McKay specializes in white collar criminal defense, presumably primarily crimes having a financial component. Now, I can't say with authority that Mr. McKay is supporting the same sorts of practices that have led to our current financial meltdown, but I definitely would hope that you join me in considering just what is going on in american corporate legal practice these days as evidenced locally through this Federal office.

Make no mistake, McKay is defending the Port of Seattle, not prosecuting the already established problems at the Port. His litany of problems is not the result of a primary investigation, merely a rehash of problems discovered by the State Auditor, Brian Sonntag - and done at a public cost that may well have exceeded the cost of the original investigator's work.

As the mainstream media has noted Mr. McKay was never able to look at the private financial records of Port employees to determine if there was actual criminal fraud going on. Perhaps most significantly he doesn't even suggest that this be done by the US DOJ in their investigation.

But the most damning thing about Mr. McKay's report is that he actually suggests promotingPort legal staff in order to better deal with these problems in the future - finding no accountability or liability from the members of his own profession for these goings on. In fact he uses the controversy to reward these, at best, fuck ups, for facilitating the theft of public monies to Republican controlled companies. Consider also that pretty much the same thing happened with Enron, World Com, etc,. Time after time the Lawyers walk away scott free with another feather in their caps.

Consider now, the history of the Federal US Attorney's office in supporting these local legal malpractices since McKay's tenure.

The next US Attorney was a Democrat, Kate Pflaumer, appointed by Bill Clinton. Pflaumer, a suggestion of Patty Murray, the Senior Democratic Senator, was a Chicago born defense lawyer. She was initially opposed by the King County Prosecutors but won favor with John Ladenberg, the Democratic Prosecutor for Pierce County (where I live) for her effort to clean up the Hilltop area. (one of the most outstanding citizen activist successes in history.)

But Pflaumer herself would succumb to the pressures of financial corruption in the King County Bar - in the famous Nordstrom Parking garage case. City of Seattle Ethics and Elections lawyer Carolyn Van Noy had found that the financing deal was problematic. However Pflaumer, and then State Attorney General Christine Gregoire did a tag team allowing the deal to avoid civil or criminal prosecution. Basically the argument was that local lawyers could do whatever they wanted with HUD low income funds, even if they knowlingly falsified crime statistics to justify the application. (personally, I'm also concerned with ballot misrepresentations by then City Attorney Mark Sidran). Pflaumer, after leaving Federal Office, would, essentially, take over Van Noy's office - coincidentally they both resemble each other as well as come from a similar era of women's rights.

Next in line in this office was Mike's younger brother, John, who got the political plum over Rob McKenna, our current State Attorney General, with the help of his 'political' ties.

As you recall McKay was quite insistent that there were no criminal violations of elections law in the Gregoire camp, though problems with King County Elections have been repeatedly documented. While it may well have been the case that there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing a repeated history of 'mistakes' that just happen to benefit one particular type of party is certainly cause for civil action, or termination of the responsible. Actions McKay did not take, even though six republican councilmembers requested he do something. (I think the Bush firing on this one was actually okay, but may well be the only one of the eight). (here's McKay on Meet the Press)

Before I conclude, do also remember that the lead staff white collar fraud prosecutor in the US Attorney's office, Thomas Wales, was assinated shortly after John McKay took office. I'm not going to imply McKay had anything to do with that, but, almost by definition, there was a member of the legal profession who represents the person who did, and they are still alive and kicking, and a respected member of the practice of law in Washington State.

These problems matter, they matter a lot. You cannot have a functioning capitalist democracy without an honest legal system - historically that has been one of the primary distinctions between a developed economy and a third world country, local and national corruption. America may well now becoming a third world dictatorship - complete with a completely above the law corporatist oligarchy.

Mike McKay definitely started out as a good guy in a great tradition. That tradition is now trashed, yet still these folks remain in power. The only reasonable forecast is the continuing degradation of John McKay, the integrity of Western Washington, and the collapse of the American way of life.

And if you want any more evidence of that, just go ask Jack Abramoff, federal lobbyist for Preston Gates Ellis, or WAMU corrupter Judy Runstad of the firm of Foster Pepper Shefelman - all folks running with their hands out to be 'bailed out' for the destruction their corruption has caused...

Here's the McKay Report.

And the original State Auditor Report.(authorized by Tim Eyman's I-900 Performance Audit initiative, an authority continuing to be challenged by the Lawyer Governor Christine Gregoire)

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Comments (2)

Eric Rasmusen:


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