a lightning rod for something
Something or someone that becomes the focus of others' criticism or blame. Primarily heard in US. The CEO became a lightning rod for criticism when his company laid off a third of its employees.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a lightning rod for somethingmainly AMERICAN
If someone is a lightning rod for something such as anger or criticism, they are the person who is naturally blamed or criticized by people, although there are other people who are responsible. She has become a lightning rod for criticism of the administration. He told the Palermo court he was an innocent lightning rod for Italy's many crime problems. Note: You can also just call someone a lightning rod. She was the party's chief manager, star campaigner and also its lightning rod. Note: A lightning rod is a long metal strip, one end of which is fixed on the roof of a building, with the other end in the ground to protect the building from being damaged by lightning.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012