This editorial will appear in the Monday print edition.
Democrats should not abuse their power to punish nasty campaigning. That job is voters’, and they have spoken.
Four years ago, some state Democrats, fresh from a bruising election that put them to power, went to Olympia bent on payback.
Their target was that master of nasty political hardball, the Building Industry Association of Washington.
Get ready for a case of deja vu – only this time revenge might masquerade as Main Street business assistance.
This year’s charge is apparently being lead by the liberal advocacy group, Fuse. It wants the Legislature to kneecap the BIAW by cutting off a major source of political cash.
Some Democrats – such as state Rep. Brendan Williams, who assisted the campaign of prime BIAW mark Gov. Chris Gregoire – sound amenable. Williams told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the Legislature might need to "help" BIAW members through this economic downturn.
The association makes a lot of money from managing a workers’ compensation for its members. Williams suggests limiting BIAW’s take to keep more money in struggling businesses’ pockets.
It all sounds good, except for one thing: No one is forcing businesses to join BIAW’s workers’ comp pool. If they don’t like how much the association is charging, they can join another plan.
Democrats can call it what they want, but capping the BIAW’s fees would be political retribution, plain and simple – just as it would have been four years ago.
What makes this particular bit of score-settling even more ridiculous is that the score is already in Democrats’ favor. They may not be happy about the $7 million the BIAW poured into hit pieces on Gov. Chris Gregoire, but the bottom line is the strategy didn’t work.
Voters are becoming adept at seeing through the builders’ tactics. The BIAW didn’t defeat Gregoire in 2004; it didn’t seat its Supreme Court justices in 2006, and it didn’t win its second run at electing Republican Dino Rossi this year.
The association did back some winning candidates for Legislature. But on the whole, it is something of a "paper tiger," as Brendan Williams himself suggests. "They lose every race in which their involvement is exposed," Williams told the P-I.
Fortunately, Democratic legislative leadership is – so far – sounding reluctant to get on board the get-even campaign. They know they’ll have their hands full next session just trying to balance the budget.
But it’s still early and much mischief can happen in years when economic turmoil has everyone’s attention.
Democrats should beware using their power to make what amounts to a preemptive strike against a political foe. No one likes a sore winner.