Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s announcement that he will run for governor of the state could be met with mixed reaction in the burgeoning tech industry. The Republican candidate has made technology issues a cornerstone of his office and the Sammamish High School grad hasn’t shied away from interacting with members of the technology industry over the years. (I once sat on a startup judging panel with McKenna hosted by The Northwest Entrepreneur Network, so he’s no stranger to tech events).

McKenna wrote the state’s Anti-Spyware Act and enforced the first case in 2006.

Since then, he’s become one of the leading advocates of consumer protection on the Internet, bringing more anti-spyware cases than any other Attorney General. That certainly hasn’t won him many fans at local companies, including Bellevue-based Intelius which felt the wrath of McKenna’s office earlier this year.

At the Innovation Summit in Redmond last March, McKenna explained the modest beginnings of the cybercrime unit. And explained his philosophy on making the Internet a safer place for all people.

“We need as many Sheriffs as possible to help keep the peace and make (the Internet) a better experience for all consumers,” he said.

Beyond online privacy issues, McKenna found himself in the middle of controversy when he ruled that state tax breaks do not apply to data centers in rural areas. (That prompted some of the major technology giants, including Microsoft, to reevaluate its data center plans in the state).

He’s also joined with several other states to file lawsuits against makers Hitachi, Samsung, Toshiba and others, alleging that they fixed prices on LCD panels. And he’s also gone after computer maker Dell over rebate offers and DirecTV over unfair business practices.

In his announcement Wednesday, McKenna made efficient government, jobs and education his cornerstone issues, all of which are key to the state’s growing tech industry.

“…We need to control state costs and free up money for education and job creation by, frankly, having fewer state employees,” McKenna said, according to a report by Patch.com’s Venice Buhain.

Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire has not announced whether she will seek a third term, but The Seattle Times reports that she’s widely expected not to do so.

Comments

  • Steve Gilbert

    As the State AG, Rob has the responsibility to look out for the best welfare of the Washington State residences.  There is a sgnificant difference in supporting technology and protecting the population from unfair business practices by technology firms.

    I would want Rob on my side for both. 

    • johnhcook

      That’s a good point as it relates to cybercrime and online privacy issues. The tax issues with data centers might be another matter. 

      • http://crankygeek.com Jack Brewster

        Seems like the datacenter tax is a legislative issue. Didn’t he just make the call based on the law?

        • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee

          Datacenters are the Engine of the Internet Economy. They are the places where your “cloud” lives. Datacenters are where electrons are turned into bits on a grand scale to be distributed to devices worldwide.

          If I recall Correctly: The tax break was originally defined to be used for “manufacturing facilities”. Microsoft, Ask.com, & Yahoo used them to build facilities in Grant County. It was the Yahoo case one that brought the issue to McKenna’s attention.McKenna decided that Datacenters do not fit the definition of a manufacturing facility. The Legislature eventually corrected that, but the damage was already done. Amazon, Google & Facebook went to Oregon. Microsoft ceased construction in WA and went elsewhere, etc. Prior to that the tax break had created a boom in datacenter construction in Douglas & Grant counties. In the time period where McKenna’s decision held sway, I can only recall one major datacenter project continuing, the rest ceased and went into limbo. I know that in my last job, we were considering expansion into a new facility in central Washington and gave up the idea after McKenna killed the incentives. The capital costs of building datacenters is significant (several orders of magnitude above other forms of construction, with costs exceeding $1000/sq’) and the additional sales tax burden of the very expensive equipment datacenters require makes the ROI in Washington that much more unreachable.
          The legislature corrected McKenna’s error in 2009, and the construction once again spooled up and now Quincy et al are home to almost a dozen large-scale datacenter projects: Microsoft, Sabey, Dell, Yahoo, VMware, T-mobile, and a few more I can not recall. The Pacific Northwest has a UNIQUE advantage, with the combination of inexpensive electricity, available fiber-optic networks, and a cool temperate climate, to dominate the datacenter location market. McKenna’s ruling put Washington behind, significantly behind, in the competitive market to land datacenter projects. These projects bring HUGE economic benefits (especially during their construction phases when they require thousands of skilled and unskilled tradesmen over a period of up to 4 years) to rural counties starved of jobs.

          • http://crankygeek.com Jack Brewster

            Chuck – Thanks for the extra background.

            My point, though, is that it seemed he made the decision based on the law, which the legislature eventually (too late) fixed. As AG, he makes decisions based on the law as it is at the time of the ruling.

            I’m just not sure why he should get dinged for doing his job correctly.

          • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee

            The crux of his argument is that “datacenters are not manufacturing facilities”

            That in the words of another mind from the 19th century means “the law is an ass.”

            Manufacture. 
            noun . the making of articles on a large scale using machinery
            verb . make something on a large scale using machinery.

            If McKenna really was a “friend of tech” he would have not been so luddite in his interpretation. Datacenters very much ARE the manufacturing facilities of the Internet Economy. They are industrial-scale facilities that use silicon microprocessors to transform electricity into bits. Those bits can take the form of everything from search results, to digital downloads. When you buy a Kindle book from Amazon a datacenter in Oregon or elsewhere makes you a digital copy and send it to you over the wire. How is that NOT manufacturing?

            Not only is it manufacturing, it is THE manufacturing growth industry of this century. 

            McKenna threw a virtual monkey wrench into the progress of this vital growth industry, doing great harm to Washington in the process.

          • Lew McMurran

            The issue in question had to do with an “AGO” where legislators asked McKenna his interpretation of the law.  AGO’s have no legal weight.  The issue came to the fore when Yahoo won a court decision and then the legislature changed the law retroactively regarding the definition of manufacturing.

            The real harm was done when the legislature (the House of Reps.) failed to pass a bill in the final days of the session that would have extended a current sales tax exemption for replacement servers for an additional 3 yrs.  That would have kep WA as a top data center location.

          • Steve Gilbert

            That is exactly right, Lew.

        • Joe the Coder

          Yes, his job is not to set policy but enforce the laws of the state.  If you want to whack on someone about the data center tax screwup, talk to your legislators.

        • Joe the Coder

          Yes, his job is not to set policy but enforce the laws of the state.  If you want to whack on someone about the data center tax screwup, talk to your legislators.

    • johnhcook

      That’s a good point as it relates to cybercrime and online privacy issues. The tax issues with data centers might be another matter. 

  • http://www.bytheseacommunications.com Gaby Adam

    Rob was in my graduating class in high school (yep, at Sammamish). He is a good guy with deep integrity.  I would trust him as governer.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Ebstyne/826077696 Doug Ebstyne

    Rob is intelligent and pragmatic with a clear record of quality decision making. I trust him to well serve our State as governor and to do so with integrity. His character is one that does what is right. His intellect and experience leads him to the “greater right” where special interests conflict with the overall good. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Ebstyne/826077696 Doug Ebstyne

    Rob is intelligent and pragmatic with a clear record of quality decision making. I trust him to well serve our State as governor and to do so with integrity. His character is one that does what is right. His intellect and experience leads him to the “greater right” where special interests conflict with the overall good. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doug-Ebstyne/826077696 Doug Ebstyne

    Rob is intelligent and pragmatic with a clear record of quality decision making. I trust him to well serve our State as governor and to do so with integrity. His character is one that does what is right. His intellect and experience leads him to the “greater right” where special interests conflict with the overall good. 

  • Joe the Coder

    He has my vote (for now anyway).  Though I think he should bury that goofy PSA. 

    Anyone that kicks Intelius is on tghe side of the angels, IMO.

    • http://twitter.com/AstroKev AstroKev

      Let’s be clear that Intelius does not — nor ever has — had anything to do with spyware.  The preceeding sentence in the article above is suggestive.  Either way, attacking “high publicity media targets” which which give millions annually to local charities and employ hundreds in our state are not the traits I would look for in a political leader of a financially struggling state.  

      • Bob

        Come on Kevin, there were so many complaints against you
        guys that McKenna would have been grossly negligent or likewise corrupt to not
        do anything.  Although hair-splitting
        distinctions and image management in the form of giving a portion of ill-gotten
        gains to charity can be effective in subjugating moral conscience, it is asking
        a lot to expect those pretexts to carry weight outside of the circle insiders. 

        Just as an aside:  Did you know the Chicago mob in the 20’s had hundreds on payroll and that Al Capone was famously (publicly) generous with his charitable giving?

      • Bob

        Come on Kevin, there were so many complaints against you
        guys that McKenna would have been grossly negligent or likewise corrupt to not
        do anything.  Although hair-splitting
        distinctions and image management in the form of giving a portion of ill-gotten
        gains to charity can be effective in subjugating moral conscience, it is asking
        a lot to expect those pretexts to carry weight outside of the circle insiders. 

        Just as an aside:  Did you know the Chicago mob in the 20’s had hundreds on payroll and that Al Capone was famously (publicly) generous with his charitable giving?

        • Seriously? You’re comparing a tech company to a mass murderer? I know a couple people who work there and from what I understand they made one bad partnership with a company lots of other local companies also worked with, classmates, expedia, etc. Its not like the supreme court came out and said they stole ip and fined them $290 million.

  • Anonymous

    This guy has Tea Party fingerprints all over him.  I used to think he was a rational Republican, but that species is extinct and he has sold his soul to the idiots on the extreme right.  His participation – nay, leadership – on the anti-health-care-reform lawsuit is a huge waste of taxpayer money to pander to the extreme right, and it threatens the health care of 400,000 Washington residents.

    You want an internationally competitive state and nation? Get healthcare off the payroll costs of US employers.  You want to know the name of the know-nothing standing in the way in Washington state?  Rob McKenna.

    • Lew McMurran

      The cost to the taxpayers for being part of the health care lawsuit is de minimus compared to what the state spends on various health care programs, reimbursements to providers, medicaid, state employee health benefits–which is billions.  Sure, participation in the lawsuit certainly has some political overtones.  However, overall McKenna is a steady hand, a reasonable person and overall would be quite good for the state’s tech industry.

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