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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

There’s Hope for the Sonics. Wining & Dining (Pt. 3)

posted by on April 17 at 17:07 PM

Every time I post lobbying reports or campaign finance reports to highlight the influence that lobbyists have on legislation, I get eye rolls from politicians. “Josh, it just doesn’t work that way.”

So it is to my delight that a politician finally agrees with me. Check out House Democratic Finance Chair Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina) quoted in today’s Seattle Times on the Sonics legislation:

Still, some lawmakers questioned the Sonics’ lobbying effort.

When Seahawks owner Paul Allen was pushing his stadium funding proposal 10 years ago, he unleashed an army of lobbyists and made a high-profile pitch in Olympia.

“The Sonics just have not done that kind of full-court press,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Finance Committee, who opposed the proposal. “I don’t know that they’re serious.”

Hunter said he got more pressure this year to support public financing for a theater-renovation project in Yakima than from the Sonics.

Come on, Sonics. You heard the man. There is hope for you. Just come back next year and spend some money lobbying these guys. According to the Democrats House Finance Chair, that’s the way it works. I wasn’t wrong after all.

RSS icon Comments


Our elected's will probably dissagree, but from where I sit, it's insane how little oversight there is over this type of thing.

I'm a graphic designer for a living, but because my day job is doing it in-house for a small-ish investment firm, (SEC rules say) I need to clear any and all gifts ($300 cap, I believe) to clients or potential clients. That includes dinners, trips, baseball games, etc. Do I want to buy some companies stock? Needs to be cleared IN ADVANCE to make sure there's no conflict. The idea is that I'm (well, I'm not in the position, though the rules apply to me - really anyone collectively or individually at the firm) isn't supposed to be exerting influence or spending money that could compromise the integrity of the market, of the entire system. And for the most part, the SEC's rules make sense.

It's amazing there is nothing even close to that strict in regarding lobbyists and our elected officials. Individual campaign donation caps? Please.

Then again, who would lobby to change it?

Posted by Dougsf | April 17, 2007 5:31 PM

Josh...which of your currently held political positions would you change for the price of a nice dinner?

Posted by Timothy | April 17, 2007 5:37 PM

Good point, Timothy.

Just as an exercise, Josh, I'll buy you dinner for two at any restaurant in the greater Seattle area of your choosing, full access to the wine list and everything, if you'll quit The Stranger and go to work writing speeches and press releases for the good Reverend Hutcherson!

Posted by Fnarf | April 17, 2007 5:46 PM

Fnarf, these guys aren't being asked to change jobs or sell their souls for a meal. They're being asked to vote one way on one bill once. Or twice. In exchange for dinner -- and good will, and checks come re-election time. If it didn't work, lobbyists wouldn't spend the money wining and dining all our elected officials. They're not doing it because they love 'em, one and all.

Posted by Dan Savage | April 17, 2007 6:06 PM

This is just legislative ass-covering. There is little hope, with mega transportation projects, healthcare costs, school funding and the WASL in the state it is in, that this will fly anytime soon. What this does is leave the door open for the kind of concessions from Bennett that Chopp and Hunter have wisely been holding out for. If there is outcry from some for a deal, the state is in a much better position now than before, as it should be. Extortion is not what we should be agreeing to, such as the current blaming from Bennett that WE let down the sonics by not agreeing to HIS terms for the housing of his personal property. I doubt they will ever do it though. Keep up the good work, Hunter & Chopp!

Posted by calvin | April 17, 2007 6:24 PM

Josh, would it be possible for you to make a post on the Slog without using the word "I" or "me" in it? You seem like one of those dogs that likes to roll in its own shit.

Posted by Husky N. Starch | April 17, 2007 8:09 PM

It's not about the dinner. It's about the connections the dinner implies. Such connections mean honoraria, future jobs, corporate donations to local charities and projects, etc.
Look at it this way, politics is about building cooperative relationships between money and power. Money does power a favor. Then power does money a favor. Now money does power a bigger favor, and so on. Once reciprocity is established it is the best interest of both money and power to maintain it, because that's the game of cooperation is most rationaly played. At some point it just becomes tit for tat and no one even thinks about it.
So no, they don't do it for he meals, but rather they do it just becuase that's how power behaves in it's pas de deux with money.

Posted by kinaidos | April 17, 2007 8:28 PM

There are requirements for reporting money spent on meals for legislators with the public disclosure commission. That's how Josh has been able to look up the BIAW expenditure reports. Washington has some of the strictest public disclosure laws in the country. The post on money and power is right on. It's not about a meal here and there. The meals allow for relationship-building outside the 15 minute meetings usually had in Olympia. Those relationships are built over meals, over campaign donations that secure a certain level of access, but never guarantee anything, but they sure make the conversations a little easier sometimes.

Posted by pro lobbyist | April 17, 2007 8:52 PM

Read the statement from Rep. Hunter again. The condition is, with such a modest lobbying effort, legislators didn't think the Sonics were serious, or that their backers were seriously behind them. Few legislators are going to take flack (and they will for this vote) for something that doesn't have a solid, visible base of support.

It's NOT "this is how many dinners will it take to buy my vote."

Posted by R on Beacon Hill | April 17, 2007 9:27 PM

Of course lobbying matters.

The electorate matters even more, though, and given that it has already spoken clearly on this issue, lobbying isn't going to change anything unless the Sonics are willing to strike a more favorable deal.

Posted by Sean | April 18, 2007 12:41 AM

...of course, all of this wheeling and dealing would actually be necessary if Clay Bennett had ever entertained the thought of actually staying in Seattle...instead of buying the team with the clear intention of moving them back to his home of Oklahoma.

Seems like this is a win-win for everyone. We doesn't want to pay the outrageous extortion amount...and Clay gets to move his team where he wants it in a huff because we didn't cave in to his demands.

A win-win...unless you happen to want NBA basketball to have a home in Seattle.

Who am I kidding...we haven't had "NBA caliber basketball" in this town since before Howard "I know coffee, but I don't know how to run a pro sports franchise" Schultz took it over.

Hopefully someone will see that you CAN profitably run an NBA franchise in this city without bilking the taxpayers into handing over windfall millions...

...or not.


Posted by pgreyy | April 18, 2007 2:23 AM

We doesn't?

Damn this lack of an edit function.

Posted by pgreyy | April 18, 2007 2:43 AM

Listen...this conversation always goes in the same direction...someone claims that money and lobbying are all powerful, and that legislators are mere pawns in the power game. Others then point out the nuances of the situation and then the originator of the charge or their allies always say "if it didn't work, they wouldn't do it" which is a radically different charge than the original statement.

I agree that lobbying is a force that matters; I've just seen too much lazy reporting that rests on the conspiracy of lobbying to draw conclusions that miss the mark. There is always a deeper, more interesting story to be told, and by looking at PDC reports and money contributions and concluding that therein lies the story, I think journalists misinform us on many issues.

Posted by Timothy | April 18, 2007 9:53 AM

you're missing the point. the sonics folks are just plain arrogant. they don't think that they need more than their self righteousness to get this passed.

Posted by toomuch | April 18, 2007 10:42 AM

The Sonics are toast.

They were toast last month.

They'll still be toast next month.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 18, 2007 1:08 PM

I was kinda goofing about the Hunter quote.

Posted by Josh Feit | April 18, 2007 2:04 PM

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