Politics & Government

BIAW's leader, Tom McCabe, leaving after 21 years

The Building Industry Association of Washington just confirmed in a news release that executive vice president Tom McCabe is leaving after 21 years fighting state regulations and high-profile political campaigns.

Here is the release, which comes amid rumors and background statements by sources close to BIAW that McCabe was negotiating a $1.25 million buy-out. BIAW spokesmen and McCabe did not return a telephone call asking for comment today.

Association president Matthew Clarkston of Camas also did not return a call today.

McCabe had led efforts to grow the BIAW from a 2,000-member trade group in 1990 to more than 10,000 members and a role as a feared, aggressive political organization in Washington state politics. BIAW led efforts to repeal state ergonomics rules through a citizen referendum and spent close to $7 million trying to elect Republican Dino Rossi as governor in 2008.

BIAW also led efforts to look into felon voters in the 2004 gubernatorial race decided in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s favor by 133 votes. And his organization became a flashpoint in arguments over the financing of judicial elections when it made sizable independent expenditures to attack two incumbent Supreme Court justices, Susan Owens and Gerry Alexander.

More recently McCabe and BIAW fought off a series of expensive lawsuits filed by Seattle activist lawyer Knoll Lowney on behalf of two former high court justices, Faith Ireland and Robert Utter. BIAW in September agreed to pay $242,000 with $342,000 more in penalties suspended – to settle a campaign finance complaint brought by the Attorney General’s Office and Public Disclosure Commission.

BIAW denied wrongdoing but its Member Services Corp. was accused of collecting $582,000 in insurance rebates from member builder groups in 2007 for use in Dino Rossi’s subsequent run for governor. But the money was not reported to the PDC until the following year, and the two former justices brought suit in the case.

The last of those three suits was dismissed by a King County judge one week ago. BIAW had won outright in previous battles with the PDC over campaign finances, and in recent years it also succeeded in beating back legislation that would have limited its use of industrial insurance rebate fees for political activities.

Here is an excerpt of the BIAW’s release on McCabe:

McCabe built BIAW’s workers' compensation retro programinto the largest of its kind in the state, refunding $360 million from state government back to builder businesses over the past 20 years. Under McCabe, BIAW became a powerful political force for conservative, pro-business candidates and causes.BIAW hired McCabe the same year the disastrous Growth Management Act became law in 1990. Over the next 20 years, McCabe directed a lobbying team that prevented the passage of any legislation that negatively targeted the building industry. The list of bills turned back by the BIAW lobbying team includes legislation to eliminate exempt wells, require costly fire sprinklers in new homes and expand impact fees.In 2003, the people of Washington State used the initiative process to reject restrictive, jobkilling ergonomics regulations imposed by the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), in an effort organized by BIAW."That's the first and only time I know of in the nation where regulations were dismantled using the initiative process," said McCabe. McCabe said he is also proud of the role BIAW played in getting Initiative 602 on the ballot, which restricted the growth of state government. “If I-602 had passed in 1993 and was still in effect, we would have a budget surplus today.""We didn't win every battle—nobody does," said McCabe. "In my 20 years at BIAW, we never had a Republican governor and most of the time the legislature was controlled by liberal Democrats. So in every battle, we were the perpetual underdogs and I am so proud of the courage and determination of my staff and the small businesses that fought along side us."

McCabe leaves the association at the end of the month.