Smoking Gun: Boeing, Paul Allen, McCaw family bribe legislators! Where’s the outrage?!

Last year, when an internal labor email surfaced threatening to cut off contributions to Democrats if they failed to pass the Workers Privacy Act, the Democratic Governor, House Speaker and Senate Majority leader literally called the cops on the unions, and very publicly killed the bill out of fear of even the remotest appearance of impropriety. So you’d think legislators would be equally sensitive to the appearance of a quid pro quo relationship with business interests.

Well… apparently not.

The video clip above is from last Saturday’s Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on HB 1329 — a bill which would permit child care workers to bargain collectively — and it stunningly shows Sen. Cheryl Pflug (R-Maple Valley) calmly reminding her colleagues that they had promised to kill the bill in exchange for $70 million of funding from Boeing, Paul Allen and the McCaw family for the public/private “Thrive by Five” partnership:

“Not doing this bill was the bright-line promise that we made to the Paul Allen Foundation, The Boeing Company and the McCaw family that contributed the funding for this.  This was the agreement:  that was that we would not unionize child care centers. This was the bright line that we would not do, and I think that we need to remember that when we make a commitment to somebody that gives us $70 million, we might want to keep it.”

So when, say, the Boeing Company gives legislators a big chunk of change (and let’s be clear, that’s $70 million legislators get to spend in their districts without raising their constituents’ taxes), not only is it okay to to promise to kill a piece of legislation in return, Pflug argues that it would be downright dishonorable not to honor the promise. But when organized labor talks amongst itself about whether it should continue contributing money to Democrats who vote anti-labor… well… book ‘em Danno!

The message is clear when it comes to influencing legislation: business money good, union money bad. And since this meme is so pervasive in our local media, you can be sure that you’re not going to read about this particular outrage on the pages of, say, the Seattle Times.


  1. 1

    lebowski spews:

    is there someting new here?

    unions bribe politicians…

    corporations bribe politicians…

    its always been this way…are you just now figuring this out Goldy?

  2. 2

    LaborGoon spews:

    The difference is the union “threatened” to withhold contributions to Democrats who kill their bills. Does it constitute a threat to close the ATM or do those dollars belong to all Democrats no matter what?

    These business groups, on the other hand, apparently made it clear that their $70 million contribution came with a string attached: that the Legislature would not allow child care workers to unionize.

    Big difference.

    And it’s positively stunning that a legislator thinks a possibly illegal backroom deal like this isn’t even worth concealing. She’s reminding other legislators of their “commitment”! WTF?

  3. 3

    lebowski spews:

    time to outlaw ALL contributions from unions and corporations or any other “group”.

    political contributions should only come from individuals with a max of $1000 per year.

    on top of that, ANY political bribery or other shenanigans should be punishable by manditory 40 years in federal prison – no acceptions.

    you wanna clean up this mess, then its time to get serious quit fucking around.

  4. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it does seem to me that there is an important distinction here. The labor unions threatened to withhold contributions to political campaigns, arguably of some personal benefit to the politicians involved. The business offered to provide money to the government for specific purposes, albeit with strings attached. The personal benefit to the legislatures is therefore more remote.

    Not that I thought the labor unions were doing anything wrong, they just weren’t sophisticated enough to do it more carefully. What they SHOULD have said is:

    “We, the combined brethern of the labor unions, will need to decide which state representatives we will support for re-election with our time, energy, and money. In doing so, we will assess their entire record, paying special attention to legislation currently being considered this session. Not only will actual legislative votes be considered, but also the degree of effort each representative mwe will also assess the degree of effort each representative made in pushing through legislation which is important to the working men and women of this state.

    No representative should consider that he or she automatically has the support of the labor unions. We expect to see continued actual and effective support for the agenda of the working people of this state, not mere words.

    Now, let’s discuss why the bills currently under consideration in this session are so important to the working people of this state…”

  5. 6

    Mark Centz spews:

    What Micheal @4 said.

    Sifl, I think Goldie is fully aware of practice, it’s the response he’s highlighting. And he’s right.

    The prisons will need the business after they’re cleared of the mellow dopers.

  6. 8

    Undercover Brother spews:

    yep….time to fill the seats with Greens, Socialists, Libertarians and anyone else not a Donkey or Elephant.

    then after 20 years or so we can vote them out too.

    it was Tommy Jefferson that said….God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

  7. 10

    Eric Arrr spews:

    Nice slight of hand there, Goldy, conflating campaign contribution money with private donations to Thrive by Five.

    If I wasn’t reading carefully, I might have missed that what you’re really saying here is, “politicians should hold campaign donations to be every bit as important as acts of private charity.”

    Wow. Didn’t know you had it in ya.

  8. 11

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:


    I see your point, but it’s a bit off base.

    The Legislature should never have accepted the money with that kind of string attached in the first place. They basically accepted a bribe that bound them to forbid the employees to even consider bargaining—a clear f*ck you to a national policy that promotes collective bargaining rights(ie, the law). They should have told the fat cat donors to stick it.

    Alas, they did not. Shame on them.

  9. 12

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    @10: At one level they are similar. In both instances the threat of witholding funds is used as a bargaining chip to affect public policy.

    If it were the unions who had funded this program and they had insisted that the employees be unionized, what would you say?

    In theory, employees have the right to bargain collectively with their employer unless, for some reason, this right is not extended to them (for example, agricultural employees were specifically excluded from coverage by the Wagner Act).

    Employees should be allowed to democratically decide this. You’re for democracy, are you not?

  10. 13

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    The fact that our government has to go hat in hand to fat cats like Allen and McCaw in the first place is a sad, sad, commentary on our current state of affairs.

  11. 14

    Proud To Be An Ass spews:

    @13: Especially when you consider that the program appears to have a great deal of merit.

  12. 15

    bently spews:

    I don’t think some of you get it. Private groups gave the government money and demanded that the legislature agree to withhold permission for unionizing efforts. In other words, some very rich people were allowed to screw some very poor people. Child care workers are among the lowest paid working people. The only chance they have of ever getting a decent professional wage is through unions.

    Furthermore, what #5 said is pretty much what the unions have said since the time when that private email was leaked. I can imagine that what the Paul Allen types say about unions in their private conversations is much worse than what was in that union email.

    There was nothing in what the unions did that involved paying for the passage or stopping of specific legislation. They said if you keep screwing us, we stop helping you. Big difference.

    Oh, and union money is individual money, given by the individual members.

  13. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    What do you expect from a corrupt Republican like Pflug? And from a Republican rag like the Times? And who gave legislators permission to sell these workers down the river?

  14. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The solution to this problem is simple and clear. All of the early unions and strikes were illegal. In the 19th century, people who organized workers were jailed for criminal conspiracy. If workers had waited for unions, collective bargaining, and strikes to be legalized, they’d still be waiting. Why should the child care workers give a rat’s ass what the legislature does? They should say, “this is what we want,” and walk out until they get it. That’s how workers got labor rights in the first place.

  15. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I’m going to repost the last comment. 5 minutes is not enough time to edit when it takes 4 minutes just for the comment to load.

  16. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The solution to this problem is simple and clear. All of the early unions and strikes were illegal. In the 19th century, people who organized workers were jailed for criminal conspiracy. They organized and struck anyway. Sometimes the police or troops gunned down the workers. They organized and struck anyway. If workers had waited for unions, collective bargaining, and strikes to be legalized, they’d still be waiting. Why should the child care workers give a rat’s ass what the legislature does? They should say, “this is what we want,” and walk out until they get it. That’s how workers got labor rights in the first place. It’s time to remember the heroism of the workers who fought for these rights a century ago. Give them up on the say-so of legislators who cut secret deals with rich business people behind closed doors? Not on your life.

  17. 22

    Lonnie spews:

    lets’s stop equating the amounts labor donates to politicians and campaigns with the MASSIVE amounts that corporations donate. They are NOT anywhere close to being equal. The unions can’t compete with the riches of Corporate America. Organized labor’s total resources are barely equal to the combined annual compensation packages of any two of the largest investment banks. It’s simply right wing propaganda to say that a $10,000 donation from labor is equal to a $10,000,000 donation from corporate america.

  18. 23

    lebowski spews:

    @15….I do not agree with that distinction. The decision on who that money goes to is made by a very few people, not the individual members. I see NO distinction between a union, a corporation, or a PAC when it comes to paying off govt officials.

  19. 24

    lebowski spews:

    @22…not relevant…and not correct(see our governors race)

    the entire problem goes away when you limit contributions to just individuals giving small amounts.

    easy squeezy….

  20. 25

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @24 “the entire problem goes away when you limit contributions to just individuals giving small amounts”

    Well, our Republican SCOTUS just told us we can’t do that, so do you have any other bright ideas?

  21. 27

    rick lloyd spews:

    before you assholes starting bitching too loudly about union influence..

    think about this:
    before unions came along….
    you could look forward to 12 hrs days..
    and you could look forward to working on saturday maybe sunday…the 6-7 day work week was the rule.
    but hey…good news..your 12 year son could work right along with you. or his freinds.

    get hurt on the job?..tough shit..there’s more where you came from, who will work for less.
    seeya… digging on that kinda future? Because that what it was before unions worked-fought- even some cases died, for these rights and benefits, you idiots take for granted.

    Do you really think Boeing is your freind?
    The only freind they have is a profit and loss sheet.