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Monday, April 2, 2007

Lobbying 101: Wining & Dining (Pt. 2)

posted by on April 2 at 9:14 AM

The most recent lobbying expenditure report for Tom McCabe, the lobbyist for the BIAW, the powerful building industry group that convinced House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43) to table the homebuyers’ protection bill according to bill sponsors, Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-41) and Rep. Brendan Williams (D-22), shows that McCabe hasn’t sprung for whole lot of schmoozing dinners this session.

Unless you count this one:


If you’re having trouble reading the fine print—on line two it says: Dinner at Ricardo’s Restaurant in Lacey with Speaker Chopp on February 13.

Politicians constantly scoff at this type of reporting. “It just doesn’t work that way, Josh!” Whatever you say, guys.

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I keep hearing this talk about Frank Chopp being out of touch or out of sync with his district. But it's not that Chopp is out of sync with his district; it's that his district is out of sync with Chopp.

If some candidate who was completely in sync with the 43rd District's values were to challenge Chopp, he or she would have about as much chance of winning as the Texans at the Alamo. The moment Chopp sensed any chance of being dethroned, the 43rd District would be descended upon by an army of trade union members and state government employees so vast their yard signs would blot out the sun. The media would be saturated with so much pro-Chopp advertising (paid for by the highway interests and the building industry) that Capitol Hill hipsters would feel compelled to give their babies names like Frank and Chopp. And I can virtually guarantee that Chopp's opponent would face a devastating scandal; perhaps the press would undercover some document showing that the challenger secretly supported George W. Bush's war crimes against the Iraqi people.

So dream on, you over-educated, well-heeled, urban, liberal, environmentalist elitists. It's your values, but it's Frank Chopp's livelihood -- and hundreds even thousands of other people's livelihoods. You don't get to be a $44K-a-year, part-time legislator personally controlling billions upon billions of dollars in state government spending without being able to transcend your district. And if you don't like it, move somewhere else!

Posted by cressona | April 2, 2007 9:45 AM

If you're suggesting that Frank Chopp can be had for the price of a meal, you're insane.

Gee, a steak and a glass of wine and I'm yours, baby! If that's all it takes, why don't Weinstein and Williams take him out someplace a little nicer than Ricardo's in Lacey?

The suggestion that politicians are whores isn't what offends; it's the suggestion that they can be had so cheaply. C'mon, this is ridiculous.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2007 9:45 AM

I don't know that the issue is "the price of a meal," the issue is that a seemingly reasonable consumber protection that passed the state senate 37-19 is being thwarted for some reason.

The BIAW says the legislation would drive people out of business due to insurance and legal costs, which is what business interests always say. Weinstein says Chopp cut a deal, and Williams was clearly upset too.

Leaving aside any (justifiable) desires to inflict political revenge on BIAW, homeowners are getting screwed in this state.

I doubt that Chopp can be had for the price of a meal, but nobody is in Olympia 24-7 lobbying on behalf of regular homeowners, who presumably have jobs to pay for those houses. It's an issue of business as usual, which may be understandable, but it's not acceptable on this bill. Democrats need to side with the ordinary citizen who needs protection against the shoddy practices of contractors in this state.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the Nevada state party deciding to team up with Fox Noise. "Out of touch" is a nice way to put it.

Posted by stilwell | April 2, 2007 10:00 AM

An interesting and relevant quote from the Seattle Times last summer:

"I'd like to see Frank Chopp run for governor," says Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, which has spent millions of dollars supporting conservative causes and Republican candidates. "I have a great deal of respect for him."

Fnarf, you're right that the fact that Speaker Chopp had dinner with the BIAW's lobbyist doesn't prove that any sort of deal was made. If you connect the dots, however, it looks like there is a very close relationship between the Speaker and the most conservative lobby in the state. I find that very disturbing, and I can't help but wonder what role that had in him killing this important bill.

Posted by Mike | April 2, 2007 10:08 AM

Fnarf is right. It takes big money to get politicians to whore out. It cost SEIU, WEA, and some construction trades unions plenty to ensure the incumbent Supreme Court candidates retained their seats last November. Alexander, Owens and Chambers had used their votes to engineer unjustified outcomes for statist entities. The paybacks to them for that got pricey once some BIAW money came into those races.

Posted by Phred | April 2, 2007 10:08 AM

"Gee, a steak and a glass of wine and I'm yours, baby! If that's all it takes, why don't Weinstein and Williams take him out someplace a little nicer than Ricardo's in Lacey?"

Frank had the steak. Tom had the chopp.

Posted by vegetarian | April 2, 2007 10:41 AM

Fnarf, it is true, of course, that a powerful politician cannot be bought by a single meal.

However, when he previously gave a strong endorsement of the the homebuyer protection bill, and the bill has strong support by the general population and most members of his own party, and he quashes it in committee without letting it get a vote, then that single meal starts to smell pretty ripe.

Posted by SDA in SEA | April 2, 2007 10:52 AM

I understand why you think that, but seriously: you're saying $124 gets Chopp off that bill? I repeat: if that's so, then why don't Weinstein and Williams up the ante and take him to, say, Canlis, and get him a nice Bordeaux with the Wagyu beef, and turn him back around?

I'm sorry, the logic isn't there. I don't know what Chopp's reasons are (though I can guess: promoting house-building at any cost), but this meal doesn't tell you ANYTHING.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2007 11:32 AM

Again Fnarf, you are right that the dinner, by itself, is no smoking gun. The dinner could be seen as a symptom of a close relationship with the BIAW rather than a cause, as could the quote that I posted earlier. In either case, I find it unsettling that the far-right BIAW has the ear of the Speaker of the House.

I don't care WHY he's doing favors for the BIAW. I do however care that he IS doing them favors, at the expense of consumers in the state.

Posted by Mike | April 2, 2007 11:54 AM


Wrong. According to the L2 form, McCabe had done very little wining and dining so far this session. The fact that one of his two dinners was with Chopp and Clibborn says a lot to me.

He uses his time wisely. And Chopp lets him use it.

Posted by Josh Feit | April 2, 2007 11:55 AM

WHAT does it say to you, though, Josh? You are implying that the meal was a reward or an inducement. Otherwise bringing it up doesn't make any sense. But it's JUST A SINGLE MEAL. So what is it saying? I'm not "wrong", because I'm not asserting anything. You are. But your story is long on the nudge-nudge factor but short on logic. What's the trade-off? Here, I'll buy you this steak if you'll kill this bill?

Again: if Chopp's support is only worth the price of a steak, WHY AREN'T WILLIAMS AND WEINSTEIN BUYING HIM TWO? Gosh, these lawmakers, hungry bastards, aren't they? Or is it because it doesn't make any difference, perhaps?

This is a vapid argument. Stick to the story. I'm not defending Chopp's position, I'm saying that the trip to Ricardo's is not any kind of indication that things "work that way". It's frigging innuendo.

Posted by Fnarf | April 2, 2007 3:05 PM


What it says to me is that BIAW has a cozy relationship with Speaker Chopp.

Indeed, when I checked the L2s last night, I didn't expect to find much there. And there wasn't much reported there—except, bam!, this dinner with Chopp (and Clibborn). I kinda laughed when Chopp's name was one of very few names that showed up on McCabe's form.

So, Chopp is an ongoing, regular, business as usual dinner for BIAW. And that does say a lot to me. It doesn't say this one steak killed the bill. It says, BIAW is cozy with Chopp and it's Slog-worthy info that speaks to Weinstein's and Williams's accusations about BIAW and Chopp.

Posted by Josh Feit | April 2, 2007 3:26 PM

@2 - exactly, it's like Josh claiming I'm the Stranger's beyotch cause Dan bought me lunch once.

Nuh uh!

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 2, 2007 5:20 PM

it's not the glass of wine that wins chopp over...
it's the all night orgy w/ mccabe and his framers that chopp just loves way too much.

Posted by mike | April 2, 2007 7:00 PM

Good and perfect blog

Precious work.

Posted by minik leydi | April 6, 2007 2:33 PM

Good and perfect blog

Precious work.

Posted by minik leydi | April 6, 2007 2:35 PM

Good and perfect blog

Precious work.

Posted by minik leydi | April 6, 2007 2:38 PM

Good and perfect,

Precious work.

Posted by minik leydi | April 6, 2007 2:45 PM

It's obvious that for $125 at Ricardo's they only had a couple of the 3 oz. glasses of wine and an appetizer.

Posted by Anon | April 25, 2007 7:57 PM

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