Dino Rossi returns to Olympia with a really smart idea

Sometimes a proposal in Olympia has such a force of logic behind it, and is so clearly the right thing to do, that you know it’s probably doomed. Sen. Dino Rossi is prime-sponsoring one such brilliant and necessary bill.

The Legislature suffered a terrible loss when Sen. Andy Hill died, but Rossi has stepped into the role for this session in honor of Hill. It’s good to see him there; in a tough, budget-focused year, Olympia will benefit from Dino Rossi’s presence.

His new bill addresses a real problem: the political and financial coziness between the governor’s office and state employee unions. Those unions spend big money to elect a governor friendly to their interests, as they did with Gov. Jay Inslee. The governor who was just elected with the help of the unions’ millions then turns around and negotiates with them over state employee pay, benefits and work rules.

We have accepted, in Washington, this way of doing business that in other situations we would describe as corrupt. Giving the governor the sole power to negotiate contracts (even as legislators, the public, and the press are kept out) with the very unions that spend millions to elect him is clearly wrong. It’s time we stop blithely accepting it.

Rossi’s proposal, SB 5533, offers a simple solution to the terrible optics of our current negotiating system. With a simple amendment, our state’s campaign finance law would state clearly that “No entity that engages in collective bargaining…with the office of the governor or its representatives may make contributions…to any candidate for the office of governor, directly or indirectly.”

Talk about an easy way to remove suspicions that the governor’s office isn’t bargaining terribly hard on taxpayers’ behalf. To many, our current collective bargaining law sets up what looks like a nakedly quid pro quo system, where political contributions turn into state employee pay raises. The Rossi bill, which attracted seven co-sponsors, would eliminate the financial incentives and improve our governance.

So naturally, it has no chance of passing a Democratic-controlled House. The people who prefer the status quo will never let that happen.

They like the current system, and why wouldn’t they? The governor as political candidate has great leverage for attracting campaign contributions, and the unions then have great leverage in negotiations. Best of all (to them), because the negotiations are secret and the public is locked out, they don’t even have to pretend to bargain hard.

Rossi, of course, knows the political conditions here and his bill’s realistic chances. The logic of his proposal, though, is helping lay bare the stark realities of our messed-up collective bargaining system. It also gives a boost to proposals to open up negotiations, so the public can see for itself how its money is negotiated away. No doubt there’s a force of logic to that.
-Rob McKenna

The following two tabs change content below.
Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.
  • sailpanther

    There has to be a way to force the governor to open the meetings up. Perhaps refusing to pass a budget until he does.

    • dhg72

      They’ve had that option all along.

  • James

    One could hope that a reasoned bill like this would attract some support from across the isle, but alas. This situation also reminds us why seemingly intractable conditions persist – so long as one party reaps a political advantage, ethics and good governance will always take a back seat.

  • Mike Swanson

    Can Dino’s Bill be put on the ballot for us to vote on?

  • Maggie

    Good for Dino! I only wish that this information could get into the main stream media but fat chance on that. There has to be a way to expose the corruption by the liberals to the sheep in Washington. Rob, how can we help?

    • Dale

      Post it on Craigslist in the Politics Section… I do with things I feel are important


    Thanks, Rob, I didn’t know that this officially sanctioned corruption was going on. Put it in an initiative and it will be broadcast to the electorate.

    • dhg72

      What corruption? Suggesting that there may be an inappropriate relationship does not mean there is one. Why does anyone else vote? Is it because the person they vote for is most likely to further there interests. This argument from Rossi and McKenna is mean to embolden the weak minded and easily influenced. They’ve read Trump’s book but don’t have his personality to pull it off.

      • Biff

        If they didn’t have secret negotiations, the public would know if there was an inappropriate relationship or not. Gotta keep that corruption under wraps and away from the light of day.

      • JUSTJOE_P

        Corruption takes many forms and is sometimes hard to define, but I know it when I see it and this is it. I also see that you have sipped from the Ultra-Liberal kool-aid. You sense opposition to your opinion and immediately go to the misdirecting ad hominem attack. What Rossi and McKenna have pointed out is blatantly corrupt. The state employee unions donate millions to elect who they want (that’s legal) then go behind closed doors to “negotiate” their pay-off (that’s corrupt). That’s an entire chapter in Integrity 101.

  • RyanGrant

    The PSE of Washington were one of your biggest donors in 2012 because they believed that you would fix their health insurance. Should that be banned, too?

  • Tim Jessop

    Does that mean individual union employees cannot contribute to the Governors eletion also??

  • lokiswife

    When Boeing and the IAM are undergoing negotiations, there are lawyers and other company officials sitting across the table from the IAM people to negotiate and protect Boeing’s interests. When the teachers negotiate, who is sitting across the table to represent and negotiate for the taxpayers who will be paying a large part of those retirements? The public should be there, the numbers should be accessible to the public for all state government people.

  • David Kutz

    Thank you Rob. I will call my Legislators (all D-23rd)) to support the bill, and at least will make my wishes know. Man do I wish you were our Govenor now. Inslee is so embarrassing with his stupid and grandstanding and partisan lawsuit against the President. -David, Kingston WA

  • Malby

    Good luck with that one. I’d vote for it.

  • gowenray

    Okay, it’s a smart idea and I’d encourage both parties to realize you don’t allow private money to influence public representation……Oh wait, that’s a bigger issue isn’t it?