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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BIAW spent heavily to defeat Master Builder supported candidate Liz Loomis

Democrats hoping to build winning reelection campaigns in 2010 ought to think twice about soliciting support from the building industry over the next two years.

Just ask Liz Loomis. She represents the 44th Legislative District in Snohomish County, which extends from Marysville to Mill Creek.

Earlier this cycle, Liz won the support of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, which endorsed her and made two $800 contributions to her campaign through its political action committee, the Affordable Housing Council.

Liz touts the endorsement on her website, and the Master Builders have this to say about her and all the other candidates they support:
Please support the housing industry by supporting these housing-friendly candidates for office by volunteering for, contributing to and voting for them.
That must mean Liz is a friend to homebuilders, right?

Wrong, says the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Master Builders' statewide affiliate, which claims to reprent the Evergreen State's homebuilders (but in reality, derives its popularity from the pool it runs providing low risk, state-mandated workers' compensation insurance).

The BIAW reported spending $22,484.04 against Liz during the last three days of October, and $20,742.97 supporting her opponent, Republican Mike Hope, at the same time. The money was used to send out attack mail throughout the district.

Why? Well, because Liz is a Democrat, and the BIAW (Olympia's most vicious right wing lobby) wants a Republican-controlled Legislature to do its bidding.

The BIAW's agenda mainly consists of these objectives:
  • Get rid of progressive laws that protect workers and consumers
  • Prevent the enactment of any regulations that would force the industry to be more accountable (like the Homeowner's Bill of Rights)
  • Weaken or destroy environmental protection measures (for example, in 2006, the BIAW sued the government to prevent orcas from being listed as an endangered species)
In other words, let nothing stand in the way of sprawl and unchecked development.

Democrats in Olympia are mostly an obstacle to the BIAW's goals. The BIAW particularly despises Governor Chris Gregoire, which it has called "a power hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead."

The BIAW spent millions of dollars trying to buy the governor's mansion for Dino Rossi this year. They failed, fortunately, but their independent expenditures in legislative races appear to have been more successful.

For instance, the BIAW spent over fifty thousand dollars in the 26th Legislative District attacking Democrat Kim Abel and supporting her Republican opponent Janice Angel. The two were vying to replace Pat Lantz as Representative. Angel appears to have won; Abel has conceded the race.

Then there's Spokane's 6th Legislative District, where incumbent Democrat Don Barlow has apparently lost to Republican Kevin Parker, who is currently ahead by several thousand votes. The BIAW spent some $65,059.88 against Barlow.

They spent even more - a whopping $70,741.82 - against Democrat Rob Cerqui in the 25th Legislative District (Pierce County). Rob, a Fife City Councilmember, was hoping to succeed retiring Republican Joyce MacDonald, but sadly, he has lost to his BIAW-backed Republican opponent, Bruce Dammeier.

And the BIAW is on the verge of victory in the 44th, where Mike Hope is ahead of Liz Loomis by just one hundred and twelve votes.

(The Secretary of State's office anticipates that the Snohomish County Auditor will have to conduct an automatic recount to determine the outcome of the race).

For every dollar that the Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties contributed to support Liz, the BIAW spent fourteen more directly against her. (And that's not counting what they spent on Hope's behalf).

However - and I didn't mention this earlier - the BIAW did bizarrely report one expenditure of $5,290.24 in support of Liz' candidacy, and an equal expenditure supporting Hope, both on October 29th.

Why the BIAW would spend a few thousand dollars to "help" Liz while spending an amount several times that in a flagrant attempt to replace her with a Republican is a mystery to us. Maybe they're just trying to confuse the public.

In any case, it's pretty clear that BIAW doesn't want Liz in the statehouse - even though their local chapter says that Liz is a friend of the industry.

For too long, the BIAW been using part of the "retrospective rating" rebate checks their members get from the State of Washington every year to wage war on the health and common wealth of the State of Washington. This has to end.

The rebates are intended to encourage builders to stay safe on the job by giving them back part of their premiums.

The BIAW, as the operator of the state's biggest workers' compensation pool, should be passing all of the savings back to its members. Instead, it's deliberately siphoning off millions of dollars to use for attack politics.

Fortunately, momentum appears to be building to end BIAW's abusive practices.

Yesterday morning, the Seattle P-I's Chris McGann filed an article about growing interest in the Democratic caucus to pursue retro reform:
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said the attack ads during the last election caused many people to question the Retro program.

"I think people are interested in that -- the key is to make sure that the L&I funds are used for the proper purposes -- that is to help injured workers," he said.

Chopp said he had not discussed the matter with his caucus.

"I assume that will be brought up," he said.

"I thought their ads were over the top, and in the final analysis, very unproductive for them ultimately."
Maybe their ads turned out to be ineffective in the governor's race, but surely the Speaker has noticed that the BIAW managed to help take out several of his caucus' recruits, including Kim Abel and Rob Cerqui, who would have made fine legislators.

Neither the BIAW's targeting of Democrats nor its abuse of the retrospective rating system seems to bother Chopp's deputy, according to the Seattle P-I.
House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said the BIAW has a right to spend the money as it likes.

Nonetheless, she said a bill is likely in the works. "People are angry so they might" draft a bill, she said. "I don't know that we are in the business of getting even with people. That's what it would be, probably, just trying to get even with them for hitting the governor."
But you're not angry at the BIAW, are you, Ms. Majority Leader? No, you seem to like them just fine, and they must like you back - because they sent you a $250 check a couple of months ago. And you accepted it.

We hope you realize, at some point, that the Building Industry Association of Washington is only interested in your friendship as long as they can use you. As soon as you get in their way, they'll go after you.

We also hope you realize that retro reform isn't about getting even, it's about ensuring that the retrospective rating system serves its true purpose and is not abused. Here's RCW 51.16.035:
The department [of Labor and Industries] shall formulate and adopt rules governing the method of premium calculation and collection and providing for a rating system consistent with recognized principles of workers' compensation insurance which shall be designed to stimulate and encourage accident prevention and to facilitate collection. The department may annually, or at such other times as it deems necessary to achieve the objectives under this section, readjust rates in accordance with the rating system to become effective on such dates as the department may designate.
Emphasis is mine.

The above paragraph is from the chapter that establishes the restrospective rating system. The intention is clear - let's provide a way to incentivize safer construction sites and reduce injuries. That's the whole point of the refunds.

The law needs to be clarified to say that middlemen like the BIAW cannot simply decide to keep part or all of their members' refunds.

The BIAW is absolutely free to ask its members to voluntarily contribute to a political fund. But the BIAW should not be allowed to game the restrospective rating system for nefarious and vindictive ends.


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