Sue Morrow: Gibbons grabs headlines with health care lawsuit maneuver
After years of unwanted, unfavorable and embarrassing media attention, Gov. Jim Gibbons has finally found a way to garner what he must believe to be positive headlines for his underfunded re-election campaign.
After attempts to bully Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto into joining a lawsuit seeking to block the health care bill failed, Gibbons decided to take his bull by the horns.
Last week the Republican governor signed an executive order calling for Nevada to join 14 other states in the suit. Responding to one of Masto’s arguments against being involved in the litigation – that it would result in significant cost to the state – he obtained free legal services of Las Vegas lawyer Mark A. Hutchison to represent the state.
Hutchison, who was appointed by Gov. Kenny Guinn and reappointed by Gibbons in 2008 to serve on the Nevada Ethics Commission, resigned that post about two months ago, according to another commission member.
Gibbons contends that the health care reform bill is unconstitutional.
Masto, a Democrat, has said an analysis by her legal staff indicates that the lawsuit would have little chance of succeeding and that the number of plaintiffs in the case will not necessarily ensure its success. She has also maintained that Nevada “could ride for free at this time by allowing other states to foot the bill.”
Gibbons has been the subject of numerous headlines since the night he held an unannounced private swearing in ceremony at his Reno home minutes after his election became official.
There’s the civil lawsuit by a Las Vegas cocktail worker over allegations he tried to assault her in a parking garage. A former auditor in the governor’s office is suing Gibbons and his budget director over her removal, alleging the dismissal occurred because Gibbons thought she leaked to the press information about more than 800 text messages he sent to a woman on his state phone.
Not too long ago, the governor had to issue an apology for lying to a television reporter about taking a woman long-rumored to be his paramour to Washington, D.C., where a governor’s conference was held.
A writer for Newsweek magazine seems to bolster Masto’s opinion about the success of the suit against the federally mandated health care reform legislation. In the article by Dahlia Lithwick, she said legal scholars claim the mandate can’t be challenged before it kicks in in 2014. Lithwick also cites a law school professor who asserts that “states can’t just block implementation of federal laws.”
In the meantime, Gibbons is grabbing headlines and television coverage over his stance on health care reform. Sure beats trying to come up with the money to buy ads for his bid for a second term.
• Sue Morrow is a longtime journalist and a member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. She may be reached at email@example.com.