State GOP Chairman With Close Rove Ties Admits Pressuring Attorney

The Seattle Times reports tonight that a chairman of the Washington state Republican Party with ties to Karl Rove pressured U.S. Attorney John McKay to launch a criminal probe during the hotly contested 2004 governor’s race, which had been certified in favor of the Democratic candidate. The ex-chairman, Chris Vance, “said that he was in contact with the White House’s political office at the time.”

Vance said then-U.S. Attorney John McKay made it clear he would not discuss whether his office was investigating allegations of voter fraud in the election. He said McKay cut off the conversation.

“I thought it was part of my job, to be a conduit,” Vance, who now operates a consulting business, said in a telephone interview. “We had a Republican secretary of state, a Republican prosecutor in King County and a Republican U.S. attorney, and no one was doing anything.

Vance’s revelation may be new evidence of a wider level of involvement by Karl Rove in the U.S. Attorney purge. Vance and Rove reportedly worked closely on state politics. The Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2004, Dino Rossi, was the candidate “Vance and Rove wanted,” the Seattle Times noted in 2005. Rove and Vance also reportedly worked to get Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA) to launch a Senate bid.


McKay is a Republican and was appointed by President Bush. The alleged voter fraud he was being pressured to probe had already been investigated by prosecutors in his office and the FBI, who “never found any evidence of criminal conduct.” Nevertheless, he was pressured both by a GOP official and Rep. Doc Hastings’s (R-WA) office to convene a federal grand jury.

In emails released today, we learned that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ chief of staff Kyle Sampson wrote then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers in Sept. 2006 and identified McKay as one of five U.S. attorneys “we should now consider pushing out.” That same month, Miers called McKay directly interviewed McKay for a federal judgeship position and asked him to explain why he had “mishandled” the governor’s race. By December, McKay had been fired and denied the federal judgeship. Shortly afterwards, a Gonzales aide called McKay to offer him a deal: “you stay silent and the attorney general won’t say anything bad about you.”