The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW)—once the biggest, baddest, best-financed conservative political organization in the state—suffered yet another blow yesterday when a state appeals court not only upheld a lower court ruling finding it guilty of skimming millions of dollars from members' trust funds, but overturned the lower court ruling that BIAW was not responsible for repaying skimmed interest. As a result, the BIAW will ultimately repay members hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it would have had it not appealed. Ha-ha!
The BIAW and the Master Builders Association had also asked that they be awarded attorneys for defending against the charges on which they prevailed. but the appeals court denied their request. However, the appeals court did award attorneys fees to the plaintiffs, adding yet more to the BIAW's final payout. The plaintiffs' law firm, Smith and Lowney, has posted the appeals court decision to its website.
Members had sued the BIAW for skimming $20 million in "marketing fees" and using the money to fund political campaigns, including over $8 million spent on behalf of Republican Dino Rossi's 2008 gubernatorial campaign. The appeals court remanded the case back to the lower court to determine how much the BIAW will be ordered to return to its members.
“The Court of Appeals delivered an across-the-board victory for the BIAW members," said Rick Dubrow in a prepared statement. Dubrow is the owner of A-1 Builders, one of the small businesses that served as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "We trusted the BIAW and the Court agreed that the BIAW abused this trust," Dubrow said. "Now the BIAW will have to return the funds it took from thousands of small businesses across the State.”
The BIAW was once one of the most feared political operatives in the state, and was a major force behind Rossi's legal contest of the 2004 gubernatorial election. But the organization dramatically retrenched in the wake building industry collapse and the loss of its skimming revenues.