Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Seattle Post-Intelligencer profiles Democrats who are taking BIAW money

Six and half years ago, frustrated by Tim Eyman's harmful initiatives and the lack of a year round opposition that was as persistent and determined as he was, I launched Permanent Defense, which to this day continues as an effort to safeguard the Evergreen State from right wing attacks on our common wealth.

Part of what led me into activism was my disgust at Olympia Democrats' willingness to capitulate to Eyman and his allies. It seemed to me that there were few people within Washington politics who were willing to do battle with Tim.

So I stood up. I took a stand against Tim Eyman, against his ill-conceived initiatives, against the power of the right wing, against their agenda of crippling government and our democracy through incremental subversion and destruction. I got involved, because I felt my own values were under attack, and I couldn't watch from the sidelines any longer. I just couldn't watch while other Democrats capitulated and foolishly gave Eyman and his allies what they wanted.

I couldn't because I knew it was wrong. Immoral. Unacceptable.

Throughout my six and a half years of activism I've also been a loyal Democrat. I've never voted for a Republican and I probably never will. I am a firm believer in our party's First Amendment rights, especially of free assembly. And I don't usually let my differences with other Democrats get in the way of my supporting them. Politics is a team sport and the party is a big tent.

I'm not loyal to the party, however, because of who runs it or who is in it. I'm loyal to the party because of the progressive ideals that the party has championed during most of its history.

And when I see those ideals being abandoned or compromised by Democratic leaders who profess their love for common good, I, like the other wonderful people who work with me at the Northwest Progressive Institute, have a hard time staying quiet. It's why I didn't hesitate to criticize Governor Gregoire when she called a special session to reinstate Tim Eyman's Initiative 747.

And it's why I felt compelled to say something after prominent House Democrats who'd received money from the state's meanest, nastiest right wing lobby (the Building Industry Association of Washington) killed the Homeowner's Bill of Rights at the end of the legislative session earlier this year.

It's appalling that there are people within the Democratic Party who can justify taking money from a sleazy organization that is viciously opposed to everything we believe in as Democrats, uses dirty tricks and nasty rhetoric in pursuit of its agenda, derives its multimillion dollar political war chest by exploiting a loophole in state law, and couldn't care less about destroying the environment or infringing upon Washingtonians' privacy.

Yet, as Seattle P-I reporter Chris McGann discovered in the excellent report he filed for this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, such Democrats exist, and many of them hold powerful positions.
Many of the Democrats who have accepted contributions from the builders wield considerable influence. They include Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, state Auditor Brian Sonntag and lawmakers who head legislative committees governing transportation, finance, education, corrections, higher education and public safety.

Despite loud criticism about the BIAW's politics, none of the checks has been returned.
And for once, we have to agree with Dino Rossi:
"The hypocrisy on the other side is pretty clear," said Republican Dino Rossi, who is challenging Gregoire in the governor's race. "They are willing to accept the money even though they are beating (the BIAW) up as well."

Sen. Brian Weinstein, D-Mercer Island, agreed.

"It's a real shame and a stain on my party," he said. "My fellow Democrats would cry foul when the BIAW levies vicious attacks on our governor and environmentalists, and then they hypocritically accept campaign contributions from BIAW PACs. It's no wonder most people are so cynical of politicians. You would think that the Democratic Party would put principle before money, but some in my party just can't help themselves."
Indeed, the state party and Governor Gregoire's campaign have repeatedly made the BIAW a centerpiece of the gubernatorial campaign.

State Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who at any hour of the day could give a fine speech decrying the BIAW, is apparently unwilling to take a stand himself to insist that the Democratic Party be clean of the BIAW and its money.
Pelz said he hasn't asked Democrats to refuse contributions from the builders.

"That's not my job as state party chairman," he said. "Candidates and members of the Legislature make decisions about who they accept donations from. The state party would never accept a donation from the BIAW because we don't agree with their goals, and we don't agree with their values, and we don't agree with their message, and we have no respect for them."

The party won't punish candidates who accept contributions from the BIAW, Pelz said. "That's a decision between that candidate and his or her voters."
And as for those whose campaigns are benefiting from BIAW money?
Rep. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island, said he saw no conflict of interest in the fact that the state Democrats have vilified the BIAW and accused Rossi of being "owned" by the group.

He said the BIAW's attack ads against Gregoire were unconscionable but said it would not make sense to return donations from the group


Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she doesn't like the BIAW's politics.

"It's reprehensible to try to buy an election," she said.

But she's comfortable with accepting the group's campaign contributions.

"Building issues themselves are not political," Clibborn said.
Really. "Building issues themselves are not political"?

I guess "abortion issues" aren't political either. Or "transportation issues". I mean, those have absolutely nothing to do with politics, right? Please. Stop insulting our intelligence. Don't pretend there's no connection between the BIAW's cash and your politics. Your constituents know better.

There's no excuse for taking BIAW money. None.

Any Democrat who does is condoning the BIAW's politics of destruction and demonstrating that they care more about seizing political power than fighting for progressive values.

The BIAW, like other business interests, does not donate to a candidate for no reason. They expect to get something in return. Like lawmakers agreeing to use their influence to kill the Homeowner's Bill of Rights. That's the whole point of their campaign contributions. Money buys influence.

Politicians who deny that are kidding themselves.

Chairman Pelz and Governor Gregoire are totally justified in criticizing the BIAW for its politics of destruction. But their criticism rings hollow if they're just going to look the other way and ignore the BIAW's contributions to Democratic leaders, including Gregoire's own deputy! If they truly want to put a stop to the BIAW's politics of destruction, they should start by eradicating its influence within our party.

Courtesy of the P-I, here is the list of Democrats who have received and accepted money from the BIAW this election cycle.
  • Lt. Gov. Brad Owen – $1,600
  • State Auditor Brian Sonntag – $1,600
  • Rep. Deb Wallace – $800
  • Rep. Marko Liias – $800
  • Rep. Christine Rolfes – $800
  • Rep. Al O'Brien – $800
  • Rep. Pat Sullivan – $800
  • Rep. Fred Jarrett – $800
  • Rep. Judy Clibborn – $800
  • Rep. Deb Eddy – $800
  • Rep. Ross Hunter – $800
  • Rep. Liz Loomis – $800
  • Rep. Larry Springer – $800
  • Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen – $800
  • Sen. James Hargrove – $675
  • Rep. Dave Quall – $250
  • The House Democratic Campaign Committee also got an $800 contribution.
Representative Mark Ericks, the seventh member of the seven Democrats I called out in March for refusing to support the Homeowner's Bill of Rights, should also be on that list, as he received contributions from the BIAW at the end of April. The others' names are emphasized in bold on the list above. Speaker Frank Chopp is not on the list, but of course he is at the helm of the caucus, and the caucus campaign committee received a contribution from the BIAW.


Blogger Howard Martin said...

I'm not sure one leader, even the mighty Dwight Pelz, could prevent an individual candidate from accepting a contribution from the BIAW. It will take a campaign involving many stakeholders and both the netroots and the grassroots (working together) to achieve any success on this issue. It would be a worthy battle.

August 11, 2008 7:55 AM  
Blogger SeattleBob said...

Andrew, save your energy. Taking a principled stand is a good thing but delivering a message to the undecided middle of the road voter reflecting that principled stand is another.

Here's an idea. Suggest to the Dems who are taking the BIAW money that they use it to produce a TV ad that exposes the BIAW's unadulterated effort to subvert the democratic process.

August 11, 2008 12:25 PM  
Blogger Mike Nykreim said...

Andrew, there is an undisputable vast difference between the campaign fund raising of BIAW and the Public Employee Unions. BIAW is 100% volunteered by 11,000 members who all sign the face of a paycheck and produce a produst essential to human life. On top of that NO customer is forced to use thier product. AND thier customer can take 100% of their money and put it to the product of their choice. The Pubic Employees can coerce all of the taxpayers with their monopoly over government. They have NO obligation to improve their fee for service and their track record of breaking the law is dispicable.

Andrew, when you can sign the face of a paycheck, especially for employeess that make 5 fold over minimum wage, you see see what you are against.


August 11, 2008 3:18 PM  

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