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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Seven key Democrats siding with the BIAW against homeowners

One of the reasons that advocating for the Homeowner's Bill of Rights has been so frustrating these last few days is that the handful of Democratic holdouts who are against the bill in the House (especially Speaker Chopp) have repeatedly told us, the traditional press, and supporters who have contacted them that they can't stand behind Senate Bill 6385 because there are "various aspects" or "issues" that "still need to be worked out".

Though we've asked, neither Chopp nor his fellow holdouts (who refuse to commit to voting yes) have identified any problems or unanswered questions. If SB 6385 is so imperfect, what can be done to make it better? They haven't offered any specific suggestions. And it seems they have no intention of ever doing so, because they don't want a Homeowner's Bill of Rights passed into law.

They're refusing to work constructively with their fellow Democrats to get SB 6385 through the House and to the desk of Governor Chris Gregoire.

Before I identify the names of these representatives and document their opposition to SB 6385, I want to say that it pains us to have to do this. We don't enjoy criticizing or admonishing Democrats in public - at all.

We at the Northwest Progressive Institute are a very tolerant, pragmatic, and patient group of people. We respect the importance of political strategy, we understand the deliberative nature of the legislative process, and we appreciate the difficulties of the job of lawmaker.

But there's a point at which our patience runs out. In particular, we have zero tolerance for (1) Democrats who baselessly attack other Democrats, (2) Democrats who cave to Tim Eyman, and (3) Democrats who allow themselves to be used by the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW).

Tim Eyman and the BIAW are the two of the most uncompromising right wing political forces in Washington State. They're not interested in a meaningful exchange of ideas or the common good. They are greedy, they are selfish, and they give no quarter. Their meanness knows no bounds.

They abhor progressive values and despise Democrats. They are against the American way. They don't care about democratic tradition or the rule of law.

They just want to win at any cost.

Remember this? Or this? Or this?

In a recent newsletter, the BIAW called Governor Chris Gregoire "a heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead".

These are people who are preparing to spend millions of dollars with the aim of destroying our state's Democratic majority and installing Dino Rossi as Governor. To say they are ruthless and aggressive is an understatement.

And yet we know that there are at least seven Democratic representatives in the state House who have foolishly sided with the BIAW and used their influence to block legislation the BIAW opposes, or at least pledged to vote against it. This includes SB 6385 - the Homeowner's Bill of Rights.

Here are the names and faces of these Democrats.

The BIAW Seven: Democrats Against SB 6385

Speaker Frank Chopp - 43rd District
Representatives Judy Clibborn and Fred Jarrett - 41st District
Representative Larry Springer - 45th District
Representatives Deborah Eddy and Ross Hunter - 48th District
Representative Mark Ericks - 1st District

Of all of these individuals, it is perhaps Judy Clibborn who has been the most honest about her position - though she hasn't hesitated to deceive her constituents by explaining her opposition to SB 6385 using a canned BIAW response filled with false assertions and lies.
From: Clibborn, Rep. Judy
Sent: Wednesday, March 05, 2008 2:48 PM
Subject: RE: Cause of action for negligent construction -SB 6385

This is a bad bill. I will do everything in my power to see that it does not get to the floor for a vote. It is currently in Rules and not eligible for a vote. IF it gets out, I will vote no.

Judy
The message speaks for itself. Judy Clibborn has allowed herself to be used as a tool of the BIAW. Rather than standing up for the people she's supposed to represent, she has sold herself to the other side.

The BIAW will undoubtedly reward Clibborn's loyalty with a check from its political action committee, the "Affordable Housing Council" - as it has done in the past:

11/06/2006: $700.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (general)
07/28/2006: $700.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (primary)
09/13/2004: $675.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (primary)
11/01/2004: $675.00 from the WA AFFORDABLE HOUSING COUNCIL (general)

At the same time, the BIAW will be working to ensure that Clibborn loses her Transportation Committee chairmanship by spending huge sums of money to help Republicans take control of Olympia. That is, after all, their agenda.

Perhaps it's no surprise that the BIAW has also maxed out to Deb Eddy ($1,400 for the 2006 cycle) and Fred Jarrett ($1,400 for the 2006 cycle; $675 in the 2004 cycle, $600 in the 2002 cycle, $500 in the 2000 cycle).

Additionally, the BIAW contributed $700 to Larry Springer's campaign on September 15th, 2006, and sent the same amount to Mark Ericks (July 20th, 2006) as well as Ross Hunter (September 19th, 2006).

Even Speaker Frank Chopp has been repaid for his years of friendship. The BIAW has sent him checks directly three times from its "Council" committee:

$700 on September 12th, 2006
$250 on September 9th, 2004
$600 on August 19th, 2002

If you're reading this in disbelief and thinking, maybe they've got it wrong - maybe the Affordable Housing Council is some other organization - let me assure you, this is indeed the BIAW. It's one of their many front groups, but at least the BIAW takes ownership of it on their own website:
BIAW and BIAW’s Political Action Committee, the Washington Affordable Housing Council, play an active role in Washington State elections, pouring a significant amount of time, energy and money into ensuring the election of pro-business and pro-housing candidates that support the building industry and the continued economic growth of the state.

Each year, BIAW offers its award winning campaign school seminar to candidates statewide interested in learning how to run a successful campaign. In addition, BIAW offers financial, research and planning assistance to pro-business and pro-housing candidates.
It's not just campaign contributions, either. According to Public Disclosure Commission records, the BIAW's Executive Vice President, Tom McCabe, took Chopp and Clibborn out to dinner at Ricardo's in Lacey on February 13th, 2007. And the BIAW has lavished praise on Chopp in public:
Chopp's stature has grown with his majority. He wields political clout arguably second only to the governor. He has built a coalition that includes traditional allies such as labor, teachers and environmentalists. And he has picked up surprising support deep in GOP territory.

"I'd like to see Frank Chopp run for governor," says Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which has spent millions of dollars supporting conservative causes and Republican candidates. "I have a great deal of respect for him."
"I'd like to see Frank Chopp run for governor"!?

Chopp has in the past sharply denied cutting deals with the BIAW. But all the evidence we have suggests that that's just what he is doing.

Unfortunately, as Josh Feit noted last year, this isn't an isolated incident. There have been many ocassions where Chopp has let progressives down:
Despite their 62–36 supermajority in the state house and 32–17 supermajority in the state senate, the list of disappointments is lengthy.

The Democratic leadership has tabled or thwarted a number of no-brainer legislative items: a cap on payday-loan interest rates, a bill closing the gun-show loophole, a bill to keep tabs on corporate tax breaks by including those de facto expenditures in the budget, legislation preventing employers from holding "captive audience" anti-unionizing meetings, regulations requiring disclosure from pharmaceutical-industry lobbyists, an overall cap on CO2 emissions, tenant relocation assistance and a cap on condo conversions, legislation preventing strip-mining operations on Maury Island, protecting student free-speech rights, a homebuyers' protection bill, full funding for health-care workers in nursing homes, and a cool follow-up to the infamous $3.2 billion tax break Boeing got in 2003, making the money contingent on a requirement that the company doesn't engage in union busting.
Springer and Eddy have attempted to sound more practical in their replies to constituents than Clibborn has. They have tried to change the subject by bringing up legislation that they claim is better - HB 3349, which was cooked up by Representative Ericks in tandem with the BIAW.

HB 3349 would "provide a review of the need for residential contractor licensing." It does not guarantee that mistakes will be prevented and it does nothing to provide redress when mistakes occur.

That hasn't stopped Deb Eddy from claiming that it's just as good:
I'm still preferring that we do the sunrise review on contractors' licensing...HB 3349. There are three ways to approach problems in this area: licensing, regulations and private causes of action. I'd like to explore the other two, first [...] There are lots of other folks with serious questions about its [Senate Bill 6385] timeliness.
"A sunrise review of licensing" may sound lovely, but it doesn't help homeowners who need a legal remedy or assistance because they have no other options.

To be fair to Representative Eddy, though, she has also told NPI that "I'm not standing in the way of this bill!" And for that, we thank her. Even if she won't vote for it, at least she isn't trying to stop it from reaching the floor.

Ross Hunter, meanwhile, has dodged constituent questions about SB 6385 by claiming that he hasn't read the bill "because it hasn't appeared on the calendar". And of course it won't appear on the calendar until Speaker Chopp decides to let the bill through or he is forced to by the House Democratic caucus.

Eddy, Springer, Clibborn, Ericks, Hunter, Jarrett, and Chopp either don't understand the magnitude of the problem facing Washington homeowners or are deliberately choosing to ignore the convincing evidence that action is needed now.

To summarize the situation, consider that builders in the Evergreen State construct about 40,000 new homes each year.

An independent engineering inspection firm has estimated that seventeen percent of these - that's nearly a fifth! - have serious structural defects. That number doesn't account for water intrusion problems or other issues.

The typical repair is estimated at a whopping $25,000 just for those structural defects. Water damage, wet crawl spaces, and leaks add another $10,000 per house, bringing the total cost of the average repair to $35,000.

It all adds up to some $23 million a year, just for new homes. The market for remodels is even bigger - as is the percentage of problems.

Families throughout the state of Washington have suffered for years while the Legislature has done nothing. Read the stories for yourself:

Why we need a Homeowner's Bill of Rights: Stories from Washingtonians
Series installments:

Part I: Thomas
Part II: Lela
Part III: Tanya
Part IV: Wheatley Family
Part V: Diana
Part VI: Terry
Part VII: Lin
Part VIII: Donald
Part IX: Jamie
Part X: Cooper Crest subdivision

If SB 6385 was brought before the floor of the House, it would easily pass and be on its way into law, despite the "no" votes of the BIAW Seven. Unfortunately, not all of them are just content to vote against the bill. We know at least Chopp and Clibborn have acted to prevent SB 6385 from going to a vote.

It's telling that the BIAW Seven haven't expressed any legitimate concerns with the bill. It's time that they were honest with their constituents and admitted the real reason they're opposing the Homeowner's Bill of Rights.

Comments:

OpenID rpope98155 said...

Andrew -- thanks for having the courage to put the facts before the people and speak the truth. Although I am afraid you will be given the same cold shoulder by the party establishment as the boy who cried out "The Emperor has no clothes!" Too bad that practically our entire Eastside House delegation is in the pocket of the BIAW -- Democrats included (except for Roger Goodman). At least our Senators are on the right side -- ironically enough, including Republican Cheryl Pflug also supporting SB 6385!

-- Richard Pope

March 9, 2008 11:46 PM  

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