Media Cross Purposes
posted by April 18 at 14:34 PMon
Over at Crosscut Austin Jenkins has a post about Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp.
The piece lays out the basic explanation for Chopp’s “One Washington” strategy: Chopp wants to protect his big majority by tacking centrist.
Josh Feit wrote about Chopp’s centrist “One Washington” in a long piece the Stranger last week—and asked a pertinent question: What’s the use of Dems having a supermajority if they’re afraid to use it?
Josh detailed how the Dem leadership in Olympia has gutted, tabled or thwarted a number of no-brainer legislative items: comprehensive family leave, 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.
Jenkins doesn’t enumerate these disappointments, nor, with exception of one anonymous lobbyist, does he quote progressives who are fed up. He does write…
It’s difficult to find dissenters in Democratic circles who will openly criticize the Chopp approach as too safe or too middle-of-the-road.
Huh? Josh found plenty of “dissenters in Democratic circles” willing to go on record: folks from the Sierra Club, SEIU, and the Washington Tax Fairness Coalition. Even a Democratic State Senator and a State Rep.
Here’s a sample:
“Frank Chopp never came close to acknowledging the environmental reality,” says Kevin Fullerton, chair of the Political Committee of the Seattle Sierra Club. “Instead, what he did was take this typical centrist position, which says, ‘We’ll build auto capacity first and then whatever, transit, comes second.’ And if we get anything at all we should be happy.”
Some legislators in Olympia were coming around to the Sierra Club’s view, says Fullerton. But “the fact that [Chopp] was so adamant prevented more-reasonable members from coming over. No one was going to say anything with Frank posturing the way he was.”
“In the fifth or sixth year of Democratic control now,” says David Rolf, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 775, “neither chamber has looked seriously at tax loopholes. We’re subsidizing the Realtors and the chemical fertilizer industry, for example, with millions.”
Indeed, a bill pushed by the liberal Tax Fairness Coalition that would have tracked these corporate tax breaks had 17 co-sponsors, including lead sponsor Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37, South Seattle). Santos’ bill was passed out of the Finance Committee to the Rules Committee, but leadership yanked it from Rules and sent it back to Finance, where it’s now wasting away.
And from Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-41, Mercer Island)…
“This is democracy at its worst,” Weinstein told me in an interview. “Here is one guy who overruled 30 Democratic senators and the Democratic House Judiciary Committee. There’s no point in doing the fact finding, holding eight hours of hearings, of doing the right thing, if a dictator can just pull the rug out from under you.”
Josh worked the phones and reported this story. Jenkins phoned his in.