A group of Washington women are suing Republican attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna over his efforts to overturn the federal health-care overhaul.
Ninety women who say they’ve been helped by the federal health-care overhaul sued Rob McKenna on Thursday, arguing the state’s Republican attorney general breached his ethical duties by joining legal arguments to scrap the entire law while publicly saying he only wanted to eliminate its controversial individual mandate.
The women, including several cancer survivors, are represented by attorney Knoll Lowney, a Democratic activist who also filed a lawsuit that ensnared the last Republican candidate for governor, Dino Rossi, in the middle of the 2008 campaign.
Lowney said his latest lawsuit is about McKenna’s performance as attorney general and the future of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — not politics.
But the lawsuit’s language echoes the election-year rhetoric of Democrats in Washington state and nationally who are accusing Republicans of waging “a war on women.”
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The lawsuit comes more than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.
Representatives from McKenna’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment on the suit, but his campaign spokesman dismissed the case as political.
“This is a partisan attack and a frivolous lawsuit and doesn’t have any merit,” said Charles McCray III, a spokesman for McKenna’s gubernatorial campaign.
At a news conference Thursday, two women — one a cancer survivor, the other the victim of a car accident — said they’d been helped by the new act, particularly its support of breast-cancer screening and the lifting of lifetime insurance-coverage caps.
Plaintiff Melissa Mackey, 38, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer after being laid off from her job and is convinced her medical bills, already surpassing $250,000, eventually would have exceeded her coverage, if not for the new law.
The women and Lowney hit McKenna for public statements that the 26-state lawsuit he joined would not affect most provisions of the 2,400-page bill.
By joining other attorneys general in filing pleadings with the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the entire law — rather than asking the court to sever and invalidate just the individual mandate — McKenna misled Washington residents, the lawsuit claims.
The plaintiffs want the court to declare that McKenna breached his duty to Washington citizens and to require him to file new pleadings in the health-care case. Lowney and his co-counsel argued such a statement could potentially sway the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the health-care law.
McKenna has said he was part of a team of AGs challenging Obama’s health-care law and that the majority of the team sought to repeal of the entire act, so that’s the position it took.
Washington’s insurance commissioner, Democrat Mike Kreidler, supports the lawsuit filed Thursday, issuing a statement accusing McKenna of wanting to “have it both ways” on the health-care law.
The state Republican Party called the lawsuit “sleazy tactics” and said supporters of McKenna’s opponent, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, were exploiting the pain and suffering of the women they say they want to help.
McKenna’s campaign says the case is an attempt to generate negative press.
“It will be dismissed like so many of Mr. Lowney’s attacks have been in the past,” McCray said.
Lowney, during Rossi’s campaign for governor in 2008, accused Rossi of colluding with a powerful building-industry group to raise money for his campaign. Lowney was able to depose Rossi during the height of the campaign.
After the election, the state’s Public Disclosure Commission cleared Rossi of any wrongdoing.
Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or email@example.com. On Twitter @craigawelch.