Tag: Rob McKenna
By John Stark
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has just a few days left in office, but he and his people are still keeping busy. On Friday, Jan. 11, McKenna announced a legal settlement with an online “penny auction” company that was accused of using “bidbots” to inflate auction prices.
Bidders who participated in the ArrowOutlet auctions were required to pay 50 cents per bid, in packs that cost $20 apiece. In some cases, investigators say, the “bidbots” emerged as the high bidders, enabling the company to keep the bid fees and the merchandise.
Here is the text of the legal complaint against ArrowOutlet.
McKenna, a Republican, ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor against Jay Inslee.
Here’s the press release from McKenna’s office:
SEATTLE – Bidders on electronics and other goods auctioned on ArrowOutlet.com thought they were competing with other human beings. But it turns out, according to a lawsuit filed by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, they were often battling “bots.”
“Arrow Outlet programmed ‘bidbots,’ software that runs – that cheats – automatically,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “These programs created bogus bids that rigged results. And the bidbots sometimes won, allowing Arrow Outlet to walk away with all the bidders’ money and the auction item.”
McKenna’s office today announced a settlement with the so-called “penny auction” site. The company will shut down its auctions and provide restitution to its customers.
Inside penny auctions
Arrow Outlet’s site required bids to be purchased in “packs” that cost at least $20. Auctions would generally take place over a period of days or hours. When the remaining time ticked below 15 seconds, each new bid increased the remaining time by 15 seconds. But Assistant Attorney General Jake Bernstein, who handled the case, says Arrow Outlet’s bidbots were engineered to secretly intervene in the process.
“By deploying hidden programming to simulate bidding, Arrow Outlet increased the number of bids required for real consumers to win an auction,” said Bernstein. “That practice is obviously unfair and deceptive – a clear violation of our state’s Consumer Protection Act.”
In a consent decree today filed in King County Superior Court, Arrow Outlet is, among other restrictions, barred from running penny auctions. It agrees not to violate the Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting online products and services. The company will pay $20,000 in Attorney’s fees and $15,000 in penalties, with another $35,000 suspended as long as the company follows the terms of the settlement.
Arrow Outlet will pay the Attorney General’s Office $50,000 to run an Arrow Outlet restitution fund for Washington state consumers. Up to $250 will be available for each Washington state consumer who purchased bids between Aug. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2012. In order to receive restitution, Washington state consumers must contact the Attorney General’s Office and request a claim form. The claim form will be available in about two months.
This is the third penny auction site taken down by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. In 2010, the office negotiated a deal to shut down PennyBidr, which, like ArrowOutlet.com, programmed fake bids. In 2011, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office stopped another penny auction site that was failing to deliver items to the winning bidder.
Do these cases make Washington’s Attorney General skeptical about penny auctions?
“Yes,” says McKenna. “Bidder beware.”
End press release
By John Stark
Washington state residents had to wait three whole days after the Nov. 6 general election to find out for sure who their next governor will be, and a lot of people seem to find that kind of delay unacceptable.
I don’t know about you, but I slept quite well during this long statewide nightmare. My appetite was also not affected.
But it is a fact that this state’s election procedure is untypical. Around the nation, residents of many states still expect to take time off from work to wait in line at fire stations and schoolhouses to cast ballots that can be quickly tabulated on election night.
In other states with mail-in ballots, voters are required to mail early, because ballots that don’t arrive in the mail by election day are tossed. Procrastinators are disenfranchised.
In Washington state, if you can get an election day postmark on your envelope, you’re good. Election officials check the mail bag on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and beyond in search of ballots that must be counted. When a race is close–as in this year’s contest between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna in the race for governor–the state’s residents live in a fog of uncertainty for days. Even worse, political reporters have to keep coming up with new versions of their “too close to call” story for each day’s edition.
Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center, provides a roundup of election laws in other states, as well as a link to a roundup of newspaper editorials demanding reform.
“According to the National Association of Secretaries of State, the vast majority of states require mail-in ballots to actually be received by Election Day:
“In three states, absentee ballots must be returned prior to Election Day.
“In 36 states, absentee ballots must be returned by Election Day.
“In 11 states and the District of Columbia, additional time for the arrival of absentee ballots is provided after Election Day, as long as the absentee ballot is postmarked by Election Day.
Thanks for the info, Mr. Mercier.
What do you think? Washington state policies seem to be designed to maximize voter turnout. Is that more or less important that instant election night gratification?
I do think that in the Presidential race, a quick determination has value. Uncertainty about which party will control our nation’s highest office can have harmful effect on financial markets, foreign policy matters, and so forth.
If Washington ever evolves into a swing state in presidential politics, our voting system has the potential to drive the entire nation insane.
But I remain to be convinced that a few days of uncertainty about a governor’s race is hurting much of anything. Maybe I’m missing something.
As of this morning, the election turnout in Whatcom County is a robust 74 percent, and election officials estimate that thousands more remain to be counted.
By John Stark
Former Seattle Times reporter Bill Dietrich revisits the uproar over the Seattle Times’ decision to give free ad space to Rob McKenna, and uses that episode to make some observations about the seeming ineffectiveness of hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending.
If Dietrich is right, and voters are becoming increasingly immune to the caricatures, half-truths and empty patriotic symbolism of political advertising, that is good news for everybody. If he is right (and I’m not yet ready to declare that he is) then we can all stop worrying about Citizens United and amending the Constitution and all that.
Maybe people are smarter than we thought. Maybe it was always elitism to argue that somebody other than me and my followers would be weak-minded enough to base political decisions on television advertising.
Maybe we’re at the point where political advertising is like advertising for beer and soft drinks. Coke, Pepsi, Bud and Miller spend millions just to maintain market share.
Maybe we’re at the point where people realize that candidates for public office are not beer and soft drinks. They are more like cars. Advertising can get your attention, to be sure. But a car or a political candidate should not be an impulse purchase.
Footnote: Bill Dietrich is a Fairhaven College graduate who started his journalism career at The Bellingham Herald, and provided this newspaper with legislative coverage through Gannett News Service in the 1980s.
By John Stark
With three rounds of ballot-counting completed, Republican Rob McKenna trails Democrat Jay Inslee by more than 54,000 votes in the race for governor. But the McKenna camp continues to predict victory.
On Election Night, I saw two big-name political consultants on a Seattle television station–one a Democrat, the other a Republican–agreeing that a GOP gubernatorial candidate needs to top 40 percent of the vote in King C9unty to have a chance at getting elected. Dino Rossi was the last Republican to do that: He barely topped 40 percent in King County in 2004, and came within a whisker of defeating Chris Gregoire.
How’s McKenna doing in King County? Not good: At this point his vote total there is shy of 38 percent.
Why do McKenna’s staffers continue to predict victory? They claim that the people who dropped their ballots in the mail at the last minute will vote McKenna by a 2-1 margin. Why do they think that?
If this prediction turns out to be true, these guys are going to look like geniuses.
By John Stark
It was a long, long ballot bristling with people and issues that mattered, from the White House to the Port of Bellingham offices on Roeder Avenue. The local races are in some ways the most suspenseful, because there is seldom any polling data to warn us what the voters are going to do.
What election result was most surprising to you? Was it Obama’s win? Rob McKenna’s seemingly weak showing? (People are saying that one is too close to call, but McKenna’s weak showing in King County makes it hard to visualize a comeback for him in late rounds of vote counting.)
How about Democrat Suzan DelBene’s rather healthy margin over hardy perennial John Koster in the redrawn 1st District, which includes most of Whatcom County outside Bellingham?
Or was it the big margin of victory for the Bellingham Home Fund, with city residents once again enthusiastically embracing a tax increase?
How about the port commission expansion, which seemed to have broad-spectrum support in Bellingham but looks headed to a narrow defeat in countywide voting?
Please share your thoughts once or twice.
By John Stark
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, GOP candidate for governor, is bringing his statewide RV tour through Whatcom County Saturday, Nov. 3.
McKenna and other elected officials have announced a 10 a.m. rally at Axton Warehouse, 150 W. Axton Road just off Guide Meridian.
McKenna is in a tight race with former Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee, who visited Bellingham on Thursday, Nov. 1.
By John Stark
U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. will be at Squalicum Boathouse this morning (Thursday, Nov. 1) at 11:15 to discuss their “Jobs for Washington” program.
In case you just joined us, all four are Democrats. Cantwell and Larsen are campaigning for reelection. Inslee is in a close raise to fill the seat of departing Gov. Chris Gregoire, facing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Campaign aides say the Bellingham stop will focus on federal support for higher education, and Western Washington University students will be there to talk about Pell Grants and related programs that help students and their families pay for college.
By John Stark
At 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, four Seattle television stations will air a live one-hour debate between Washington’s gubernatorial candidates–Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna.
Northwest Cable News will also broadcast the debate.
Here’s a press release provided by KING5:
SEATTLE— Gubernatorial candidates Jay Inslee (D) and Rob McKenna (R) have agreed to a one hour live debate to be aired on five stations at the same time. The debate will be October 11 from 9:00- 10:00 PM. The unprecedented partnership between KING, KIRO, KOMO, KCPQ and NWCN provides the widest possible audience for the candidates to speak directly to voters.
The broadcast will also be made available to all television and radio stations in the state.
The debate will be held at the KOMO studios in Seattle and will be moderated by Glenn Johnson, professor of communications at Washington State University. The candidates will be questioned by a panel of anchors and reporters including Jean Enersen from KING 5, Dan Lewis from KOMO TV, Angela Russell from KIRO, and C.R. Douglas from KCPQ.
“This is a rare moment for competitors to set aside rivalries and work together as colleagues,”said Mark Ginther, Executive News Director at KING and NWCN. “It reflects the seriousness of our election season and the weight of the decision voters will be asked to make in November.”
Inslee and McKenna agreed in August to a debate co-sponsored by KING 5 and the Seattle Times and carried on KIRO Radio. That debate is set for October 16, three weeks before Election Day. It will be held in the KING 5 studios and televised live from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. immediately following the second Presidential debate. It will also be carried live on king5.com, NWCN and KIRO radio.
end press release
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna, Republican candidate for governor, wished Norm Dicks well upon learning that the 18-term Democrat plans to retire.
“Congressman Norm Dicks’ dedicated public service has served Washington State well for over four decades,” said McKenna in his press release. “I respect him for focusing on getting things done in the legislative process, often on a bipartisan basis, and for putting the needs of Washingtonians first in his many congressional accomplishments. I wish Suzie and him well as they enjoy the next chapter of their lives.”
At a time when we seem to be surrounded by toxic partisan rhetoric, it’s almost sad that a statement like this seems newsworthy, but it does.
Here’s U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s statement:
“Congressman Norm Dicks’ dedicated public service has served Washington State well for over four decades,” said McKenna. “I respect him for focusing on getting things done in the legislative process, often on a bipartisan basis, and for putting the needs of Washingtonians first in his many congressional accomplishments. I wish Suzie and him well as they enjoy the next chapter of their lives.”
“I have mixed emotions about his departure. I am happy for both Norm and Suzie, but his retirement leaves a big hole in the Washington delegation.
“Norm is seen as Washington state’s third senator, and rightfully so. From strengthening our national defense to protecting our natural resources, especially helping to fortify our fisheries and restoring salmon populations, Norm has been a tireless advocate and public servant.
“Norm took on the mantle of Washington state’s legacy of public service. He built on the example set by Warren Magnuson and he sets a new standard that falls to this generation of leaders to fulfill and build upon.
“I honor Norm’s service. He is a valued mentor and a good friend. I thank Norm for his work on behalf of our state, and I wish him and Suzie all the best in their next adventure.”
After months of closed-door negotiating, a massive, multi-billion-dollar deal between big banks and state and federal regulators has been announced to partly resolve legal issues surrounding the questionable practices that have prevailed in documenting home mortgages and foreclosures.
But after a quick scan of initial news reports, it seems evident to me that the real impact of this deal on both homeowners and banks won’t be clear for months.
The deal itself is too complex to enable an expert–much less you or me–to quickly develop a well-informed point of view on what it all means. And there is no quick way to rework millions of mortgages caught up in the mortgage documentation mess.
UPDATE: Here’s a Q&A from Associated Press that offers the best overview I’ve seen at this point.
The terms of this deal do provide evidence that government regulators are willing to push much harder on these kinds of matters than they were 10 years ago, when Household International agreed to a $484 million settlement. That deal included no reductions on loan principal, only minor changes to loan terms, and nothing for those who had already lost homes in foreclosure. The deal also required individual homeowners to sign away their rights to sue the company in return for a modest share in the money that was distributed.
The latest settlement will offer a cash consolation prize of as much as $2,000 to those who lost their homes due to improper foreclosure practices. Some mortgage borrowers will qualify for principal reductions. The states did not bargain away their right to file criminal charges if they choose to pursue them. And borrowers who have kept their mortgages current, as well as those who are delinquent, may get some help.
But in this account in the Washington Post, debt counselors working with distressed borrowers don’t seem overly impressed by the amount of relief that people will get.
At the Naked Capitalism blog, Yves Smith picks the deal to pieces. Smith is among those who warned that financial Armageddon was heading our way, at a time when most government officials and big banker types were reassuring us that the fallout from “the subprime mortgage problem” posed no threat to the banks or the larger economy. She continues to call down fire and brimstone on the banking system and the people who are paid to regulate it.
Here is Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna’s take on the deal and its impact on this state.
Attorney General Rob McKenna has announced the settlement of a lawsuit against Moxie Media, accused of serious campaign finance law violations in an Edmonds state senate campaign.
Here’s the press release from McKenna, with a link to the original complaint and to the settlement:
OLYMPIA – The Attorney General’s Office today (AGO) settled a lawsuit against Moxie Media, its principals Lisa MacLean and Henry Underhill, and two political action committees (PAC) formed by MacLean and Underhill, Conservative PAC and Cut Taxes PAC.
The suit stemmed from a complaint filed with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) as well as a citizen action letter filed on behalf of Sen. Jean Berkey (D-Edmonds).
The defendants were accused of multiple violations of the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws including an effort to conceal the source of the funding behind last-minute independent expenditures until after the primary election in the 2010 38th Legislative District State Senate race. The expenditures were for mailings and robo-calls in support of the Conservative Party candidate and were targeted against Sen. Berkey, who lost her re-election bid that year.
“This settlement holds Moxie Media, Lisa MacLean, Henry Underhill and their two political action committees accountable for their campaign finance disclosure violations and preserves the integrity of state law while avoiding the additional expense to taxpayers of taking this case to trial,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Under the terms of the settlement filed in Thurston County Superior Court today, the defendants are required by pay $250,000 in fines and $40,000 in attorney’s fees and costs—one of the highest penalties levied against individuals. As is common in these types of cases, a portion of the penalty ($140,000 in this case) has been suspended based on the defendants’ future compliance with campaign reporting laws. If any one of the parties is found to have committed a new violation between now and December 31, 2015, the full suspended amount will be owed. The defendants also agreed to obtain training from the Public Disclosure Commission staff on proper disclosure reporting.
The AGO explored the feasibility of setting aside the election (one possible remedy for violations of campaign finance disclosure laws) and hired an expert to review the facts of the case. The expert could not conclude with any certainty the defendants’ campaign finance violations probably affected the outcome of the election. As such, the AGO did not pursue that remedy in this case because it could not meet the legal burden.
End press release
It’s official. Gov. Chris Gregoire won’t seek a third term. The AP reports.
Gov. Chris Gregoire will be holding a press conference in the next few minutes to announce her future plans, and numerous mainstream media sites and bloggers agree: She’ll announce she won’t seek a third term.
Here’s the word from Politico, reporting that bad poll numbers played a big role in Gregoire’s decision.
Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna and his counterparts in 25 other states have mounted a constitutional challenge to the health care reform act on constitutional grounds.
As a recent McKenna press release puts it, the new law contains “the unprecedented and unconstitutional requirement that all Americans must obtain or purchase private health care insurance or face a fine.” (italics added.)
But it turns out that in 1798, the Fifth U.S. Congress approved a measure setting up a health care system for privately-employed U.S. merchant marine sailors. The sailors paid for this health system themselves via mandatory pay deductions. The health system established for that purpose evolved into the U.S. Public Health Service.
Among other things, Ungar notes that members of the Fifth Congress did not have to ponder the intent of the Constitution’s framers. Many of them WERE framers. Ungar’s blog contains links to the 1798 legislation, which takes up one and one-quarter pages. It was a simpler time.
Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham-Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called my attention to this via Facebook.