Nice catch by Niki Sullivan over at the TVW blog during testimony on SB 6035, which would reform the retrospective ratings plan system (the infamous “retro” money that BIAW uses as a slush fund to launch endless and usually untruthful attacks against Democrats.)
Rick D. (Didn’t catch his last name): “The Retro program is desperate for serious reform… this program is completely lacking in rigorous … accounting.” He said he participated in the BIAW Retro pool for some time. He would receive refunds, but never knew why or what it was based on. When he found out the BIAW was using some of the refund money to buy political ads, he protested. He says he was kicked out of the program for questioning it.
But it sounds like a couple of senators weren’t buying it so much:
Sen. Karen Keiser asked Rick if he ever received any safety information from his retro program. Yes, he said. He attended training that was “invaluable.”
Sen. Janea Holmquist said she was having a “hard time believing” that Rick didn’t know where the money was spent. She asked if he was on the board of the program. He said yes, for one meeting.
“I just want to highlight that this is a voluntary program,” Holmquist said. You belong to the Retro pool voluntarily and give them your money voluntarily.
Unless, of course, you say something the BIAW doesn’t like, then they kick you out.
It would be a shame if BIAW had to actually go out and solicit donations to fund its vicious campaigns. It’s pretty clear a lot of their own members don’t even like what they do.
Today Sullivan rounds up the proposed legislation here. Requiring an actuarial review and requiring refunds to members, less administrative costs, sounds pretty reasonable. But wait!
That’s the basic framework. But there’s more: During the 2008 campaign, the state Democratic party raised concerns about the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW, the largest retro program) using some of its retro refund for political activity — something that is not illegal. In the public hearing yesterday, some who testified in opposition to the bill said they thought it was an attempt to curb political speech. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a sponsor, said the bill has nothing to do with that.
To back the train up to the starting point: most regular citizens would be beyond surprised to know that BIAW funds its political activities from rebates in a worker’s compensation fund. It’s downright sleazy and outrageous, and there’s no logical reason to allow the practice to continue, despite the whimpering from BIAW and others.
It’s a freaking insurance program administered by the state, for crying out loud, and protestations about free speech are more than a little ridiculous in that context. The state is under no obligation to enable BIAW or any other group to divert insurance funds towards politics.
Sure, BIAW will cry like stuck pigs about “retribution,” but who cares? Side with the little people for once, Democrats! All those small contractors deserve to get their money back, especially with the economy in the toilet, not pay for a bunch of horseshit right-wing television ads.