Category Archives: Norm Dicks

Norm Dicks is The Voice (VIDEO)

A retired member of Congress probably has a few more career options than the rest of us when we leave our jobs. “Championing legislation” might not be a skill marketable should U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, apply for a job at Supercuts. So if you’ve got a cosmetology degree you might have a leg up on him there. But I don’t think our 36-year congressman is going to be hurting for options.

On Sunday in Tacoma, at a party honoring his career, Dicks took to the mic and showed his versatility. He can not only make a lasting mark on Tacoma and Bremerton and do whatever opportunity arises for a former college linebacker, the congressman can sing.

You might want to interpret “can sing” the way all of us “can sing.” At least he knows the words. Like Buckwheat, once Norm Dicks sings a song, it’s eternally his.

First-world congressional problems

Dennis Kucinich is Milton.
Most jobs you’re actually allowed to pack up your stuff and leave the building forever before you’re displaced from your desk. I mean imagine your boss telling you in two weeks you have to leave, and for that two weeks you have to move all your stuff to the room with the vending machines.

That’s akin to what’s happening in Congress. I guess it’s how things work there, because nobody complains about it that I know of. I didn’t know that was how things operated and I had the experience of a highly educational internship as a reporter in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1986, when John McCain, John Breaux, Harry Reid and Tom Daschle gave up their House seats for ones in the Senate.

I learned all about this office shuffling on Thursday. I had read the story about newly elected Congressman Derek Kilmer picking number 65 out of 70 for office space. (In that competition, that high score is a bad thing.) But it hadn’t occurred to me that Norm Dicks would already be out of his space. I mean now it makes sense. Like “duh.” I should have had my first clue when I saw all the furniture in the Rayburn hallways.

But on Thursday I knew his staff was in the Rayburn building. I went there and looked at the directory on the wall to find out which office belonged to our soon-to-be retired politician. I found the number, went to the location and found a California flag outside the door. The office now belongs to George Miller, D-Calif. I asked the cherubs inside the front office where Dicks’ office had gone to and was told it was in the basement cafeteria, where all the “retirees” from the building were placed. I put that word in quotes, because not everyone down there is retiring by choice.

“Basement” in this case isn’t as bad as it sounds, and there is a separation between the room of cubicles and the actual eating area.

After finding Dicks’ main cubicle (No. 36) I was told my contact there, Chief of Staff George Behan, would be there in a while. So I waited in a comfy chair nearby and was looking over emails when in my view I saw Cubicle 27, the current landing spot of U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. You may remember that Kucinich considered becoming “D-Wash.” but wasn’t exactly welcomed by local party brass and he wasn’t gerrymandered out of his district as expected. Instead, he was put in the same district as Marcy Kaptur, another Ohio Democrat who also wasn’t looking to retire. She beat him in the primary, which set the stage for Kucinich being found in a cubicle smaller than mine, straining his neck to talk on his cell phone and wondering where his stapler went.

Dicks, by the way, being the ranking Democrat in Appropriations, has office space in the committee offices and he has his own office space in the Capitol itself. From my perspective, he still looks like a member of Congress.

Norm Dicks gets ‘Dishonorable Mention’ from watchdog

An impending retirement doesn’t get you a pass from government watchdogs. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, was awarded a “dishonorable mention” today from the Citizens for Responsibility in Washington in its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report. The bulk of the criticism is from the congressman’s ability to funnel federal money to organizations his son David was running.

“After spending more than 30 years in Congress, Rep. Dicks apparently learned a few tricks on how to game the appropriations process,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan in the organization’s press release. “Directing millions of dollars to his son’s organization via noncompetitive agreements and grants is ludicrous. Conduct like this reinforces the widely held view that members of Congress are more interested in enriching themselves and their family members than in public service.”

While the criticism is pointed, Dicks is only within the second tier of legislators the organization names. He joins seven others in the “Dishonorable Mention” category, including California Republican Darrell Issa, who CREW says broke disclosure laws in his quest to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for the “Fast and Furious” mess. And Ron Paul fans, fresh off their outrage at how their delegates were treated at the Republican National Convention, will no doubt be humbled by CREW’s placement of Paul in the same list as Dicks, because the retiring Texas Republican reportedly “billed his member’s representational allowance for travel receipts while receiving reimbursements in identical amounts from either his campaign or one of a handful of libertarian nonprofits, including one where the mother-in-law of one of his daughters was treasurer. ”

The top tier, named the “Most Corrupt,” include four Democrats and eight Republicans.

California Democrat Rep. Laura Richardson makes the list of 12 of the most corrupt because, CREW reports, she “bullied and coerced her official staff into working on her reelection campaign.”

New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm cracked the list of 12 because, according to CREW, “The New York Republican enlisted a well-connected Israeli citizen, Ofer Biton, during his 2010 campaign. Mr. Biton allegedly helped candidate Grimm solicit large sums from donors, including several pornography distributors, frequently breaking campaign contribution limits in the process, all in the hope that, once in office, Rep. Grimm would help him procure a green card.”

CREW has been publishing its “Most Corrupt” list since 2005. This is the first time Dicks has received any mention on it.

Dicks, Paul and Democrat Rep. Edolphus Towns are all retiring. Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida lost in that state’s primary, so he won’t be back.

Sloan said Dicks’ retirement was not at all a factor in whether he made this year’s list. I asked her that question because I remember receiving CREW’s list going back a few years and each year I would look for the local angle. One year, 2010, CREW didn’t name a single legislator, because after five years of publishing its list and naming 56 different lawmakers the organization grew tired that 37 of those lawmakers were never even investigated by the ethics overseers in either house. Of the 19 that were investigated, three were officially “admonished” and two were given statements of violation.

I tried to reach Dicks’ office to comment on this and have yet to speak to someone there. I’ll keep trying.

Kitsap Sheriff Steve Boyer not running for Congress

Brynn writes:

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer sent out a release today saying he won’t run for the Congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

Last month Boyer said he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of running for the 6th Congressional seat.

“It’s always in the back of my mind that you’re looking for the next way to serve,” Boyer said March 7.

Since then he’s decided not to join the race. Instead Boyer has endorsed state Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who announced his intentions to run earlier this year.

Here’s the official release from Boyer:

Like so many throughout Kitsap County, I was surprised by Congressman Norm Dicks’ announcement that he would not be seeking reelection. Once the initial impact of the announcement passed, I took some time to consider whether the honor to participate as a United States Congressman and to help set a positive course for the future of America might be the best decision for my family, Kitsap County, and the citizens of the 6th Congressional District.

There were many factors to weigh while considering a decision of this magnitude and I would like to give my thanks for the confidence and encouragement extended by so many diverse groups and individuals for such a candidacy. The final analysis demanded determining where one can provide the most value for our citizens. This would be a capstone to my 40 years of public service in which success is measured by accomplishment and the respective trust which must exist with our citizens. I also have a high level of personal and professional satisfaction in ensuring public safety as the Kitsap County Sheriff.

Therefore, after due consideration, I am endorsing Derek Kilmer in the Sixth District Congressional race.  He has the right skill set built upon a foundation of strong character.  I trust that Derek will always defend American values and do what is important for our Nation.

Yours in safety,

Stephen A. Boyer

Josh Brown won’t run for Dicks’ seat

Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown, whom outgoing Congressman Norm Dicks had on a short list of possible replacement candidates, announced Sunday he will not seek to represent the Sixth Congressional District.
Brown, a Democrat, said he feels he can be most effective in his current position as Central Kitsap Commissioner, a post to which he was re-elected in 2010.
“I ran for commissioner six years ago to make a difference in the community I grew up in, and I think I’ve done that,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, my passion is really working at the local level and on regional issues.”
Locally, Brown cited his role in the completion of a YMCA in Central Kitsap. Regionally, as president of the Puget Sound Regional Council he was able to help secure a long-term commitment from Boeing, he said. Brown also chairs the Hood Canal Coordinating Council.
Brown said his decision was in no way influenced by state Sen. Derek Kilmer’s recent announcement that he will run for Dick’s seat.
“I don’t make decisions dependent on other people,” Brown said. “I make decisions based on what’s right, and what’s right for me is to stay on the board of commissioners.”
Brown said he was honored Dicks mentioned him among fewer than a half dozen potential Democratic candidates, including Kilmer, Marilyn Strickland, mayor of Tacoma, and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. McCarthy has endorsed Kilmer.
Brown said he hopes whoever replaces the long-time congressman will have Dicks’ same commitment to Kitsap’s Naval bases and to the environment.
“I was really surprised at Norm’s decision a couple of weeks ago,” Brown said. “He’s a good friend and the best congressman anyone could ask for.”

Chris Henry, reporter

Norm Dicks’ house is for sale

The biggest question posed by the headline is whether that means U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belair, is retiring.

It does not.

George Behan in Dicks’ D.C. office said the congressman moved from one waterfront home on Hood Canal to another, only the new house has a dock.

Dicks still plans to run in 2012, which according to the most recent redistricting information we have seen will mean something to more Kitsap County residents than it has for the last 20.

Election 2012: This may or may not matter

Everything shared here could be considered moot by the end of the year, depending on what the redistricting commission comes up with. If we lose the First Congressional District completely, then this won’t really matter to a Kitsap audience.

Speaking of redistricting, in California 29 of the state’s 53 incumbents were drawn into new districts. A member of congress does not have to live in the district being represented, but it’s usually kind of a good idea.

The point here was to discuss the names of candidates seeking to replace Jay Inslee. According to the Federal Elections Commission, four candidates have filed to run for the First District seat in 2012. Republican James Watkins will try again and is for now the only Republican.

On the Democratic side state Rep. Marko Liias of Edmonds is running, as is Sammamish state Rep. John Goodman and business owner Darshan Rayniyar.

In the Sixth District Republican Jesse Young hopes to improve on his third-place finish in 2010 and will be joined by fellow Republican Robert Sauerwein in a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks of Belfair.

Audio: Norm Dicks on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Stimulus, Anthony Weiner

I recorded the conversation with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, for the Sunday story on his position on U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. He is among Democrats and a few Republicans calling for a quicker withdrawal of U.S. troops.

I also asked him about Libya, Iraq and whether Anthony Weiner should resign. I cut about a minute and a half from the recording, but it’s still a bit more than 19 minutes long.

Norm Dicks on Afghanistan

Redistricting and the peninsula

During the conversation yesterday with state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, I asked him about other whispers he’s hearing down in Olympia about the impact of redistricting.

By the way, I called Sheldon because he has been through two of these before.

Sheldon mentioned that he thinks Brinnon could become part of the 35th District because the area is part of the Mason County Public Utility District.

In years past there have been conversations about extending the 23rd District into Jefferson County. I don’t think it has been seriously considered by the group of redistricting commissioners, but there is some sentiment that Port Townsend is a good match with Bainbridge Island. Geographically it is a stretch.

What may make more sense to some is linking Bainbridge to a district in Seattle. Still, not very likely, and one commenter on the story thought the notion ridiculous.

I read our stories from 1991 and 2001 and in both cases there was a large group who thought Kitsap should only have two legislative districts. I’m not sure why that would be better politically for this area. At first glance it does seem like more is better. Bremerton itself is represented by nine different legislators, even though not one legislator is actually from Bremerton.

One of the impacts of redistricting worth watching is that 35th District swing. The district will still likely take in all of Mason County. It’s the fringes that are worth taking notice of.

The reason I believe we are more likely to lose the 35th District, or at least part of it, is because of where the incumbents live. Sheldon (Potlatch) and state Rep. Kathy Haigh (Shelton) both are in Mason County. Fred Finn lives near Olympia in Thurston County.

Several months ago I did another story on redistrictings and spoke with the man many agree is the state’s foremost expert on the subject, Dick Morrill. By e-mail he told me, “The commission’s first unwritten rule is to protect incumbents.”

So you would think, assuming what Morrill said is true, that the 35th District’s emphasis in the redistricting plan would favor Thurston County over Kitsap. I don’t know specifically where the population growth has happened in Thurston County, so it could be that the 35th won’t change much at all. Sheldon said he thought not many incumbents will find themselves in a new district.

Sheldon also said state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, is considering running for Congress should Jay Inslee run for governor, as practically everyone is assuming. What isn’t so clear, however, is what district Liias will live once redistricting is done. If Inslee does announce he’s running for governor, there’s no incumbent to protect, so the First Congressional District could see wild swings.

This again goes to the idea that all of Kitsap County could be in one congressional district represented by Norm Dicks. Imagine that. And if Bainbridge were lumped with Seattle legislatively, we could have 12 legislators representing the county.

Here’s a cliche for you: The possibilities are endless. Actually, they’re not. They pretty much range from Kitsap having one or two members of Congress and two-four legislative districts. That’s not exactly endless, is it.

Dear Republicans, Democrats: I blow my nose at you.

Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.
Don’t you politicians give me garbage about how unfriendly I am or how I’m hurting the public discourse. According to a Harvard professor I’m just talking in a language you understand.

The Washington Post reports more than a fourth of what comes out of a politican’s mouth (or press release) is a taunt.

The earlier trifecta of political speak was always determined to fall into three categories: 1. Taking credit, 2. Taking a position, and 3. Advertising.

This might not be too different from how we all run our lives anyway. Broadcasters always talk about having an “exclusive.” In the workplace a well-placed bit of credit can pay off in the wallet. Here is how the three, now four, categories could work at home:

  • 1. Thanks to my leadership, the garbage cans are empty. My son took out the garbage and did so at my direction.
  • 2. I am in favor of empty garbage cans.
  • 3. Look at me, standing next to empty garbage cans.
  • 4. My son hates his family, evidenced by his failure to empty the garbage cans, despite my repeated warnings.”

Just today, Washington State Democrats re-tweeted this:

RT @glossolaliac: Tea Party shutdown means military won’t get paid. http://ow.ly/4vx2z // Does the GOP hate freedom? #govshutdown #p2 #wadem

That can’t be true, that Republicans hate freedom. In November, new House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said this:

“And we can celebrate when we have a government that has earned back the trust of the people it serves. When we have a government that honors our Constitution and stands up for the values that have made America, America: economic freedom, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.”

Even without the quote, the comment that almost anyone in any American political party hates freedom is absurd. I think the Democrat who posted that tweet probably knew that and made the comment tongue in cheek.

I think.

Yesterday the Republicans took their shot:

#Democrat Rep. Norm Dicks admits in House floor speech that the #budget mess is the fault of the #Dems. http://youtu.be/3Ss5TDbdMn0

Here’s what Dicks said in the middle of a speech in which I’m pretty sure he faulted Republicans as well for the current budget stalemate:

“I will be the first to admit that it’s because we didn’t pass, the Democrats didn’t pass, our bills last year that we’re here working on this. So we have responsibility, too . . .”

So, “We have responsibility,” becomes “It’s our fault,” according to the tweet.

This doesn’t just permeate politics, it resonates everywhere. If you admit any accountability, those who have any interest in ducking blame will use that to say it’s all your fault.

I contacted Dicks’ office to see if I could get the transcript of the entire speech. Instead he called me back. He again admitted that Democrats bear a lot of responsibility for the current budget impasse, but pointed out that the same thing happened to Republicans when they lost power in 2006. And he emphasized, something he was getting into at the end of the video, that he and the House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky, are working to make the appropriations process more transparent.

Dicks also offered that Boehner is in a tough spot because of the demands being made by some of the new Republicans in the House. You can read that to include both conciliation and an insult to Republicans.

Bear in mind this is only about politicians doing their day jobs. As we look forward to the 2012 election (And who isn’t!) the taunting or insulting language will jump from the 27 percent it is during session to substantially more on the stump.

Expect to hear that Rob McKenna’s father smells of elderberries, and Jay Inslee’s mother was a hamster.

Dicks & Cantwell introduce bill to give Quileute tsunami protection

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, and Sen. Maria Cantwell have introduced companion bills “to provide the Quileute Indian Tribe tsunami and flood protection and for other purposes” (H.R. 1162 and S. 636).

Dick tweeted today, “Great video on need for Quileute tsunami protection legislation, recently introduced by Norm and Sen. Cantwell: http://youtu.be/nYksWOoP9pU.”

From the bill under findings:
(C) for many decades, the Tribe and the Park (National Park Service/ Olympic National Park) have had a dispute over the Reservation boundaries along the Quillayute River;

(D) in recent years, this dispute has intensified as the Tribe has faced an urgent need for additional lands for housing, schools, and other Tribe purposes outside the tsunami and Quillayute River flood zones; and

(E) the lack of a settlement of this dispute threatens to adversely impact the public’s existing and future recreational use of several attractions in the Park that are accessed by the public’s use of Reservation lands.

Talking about real money in Congress

Over in the righthand column we now have a widget that offers you the latest from PolitiFact.com’s Truth-O-Meter.

Some truth-o-metrics played a role in preparing the story for this weekend that discussed possible local impacts of federal budget cuts. One of the questions I ran across is how much cutting is really going on. That started with the Washington Post The Fact Checker blog piece titled
Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget ‘cuts.'”
The entry makes clear that Democrats are not meeting Republicans halfway on budget cuts by offering $52 billion in cuts compared to Republicans’ $100 billion.

For one thing, the $100 billion figure Republicans are using, such as in the quote I included from U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, is not correct either. For reasons I’m not sure I can adequately explain, the Republican cuts are actually about $61 billion and Democrats are closer to $10 billion.

If you’re into math, you know that 10 is not really close to half of 61 and that 61 is not 100. As a story in today’s Post explains, though, that’s less of an issue than the fact that Republicans and Democrats are about $50 billion apart.

In preparing the story I wrote I did my darndest to get a Republican voice in the story to respond to the comments by union guy Ivan Weich. I wanted a voice from Congress to match the comments from Norm Dicks’ spokesman. I first called Herrera Beutler and got no response. I talked to someone in Dave Reichert’s office who said he’d try to get someone, but that was the end of it. I then called the offices of Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the Republican National Committee. No luck at any of those places.

I was disappointed, but in the end I wasn’t surprised. We are, after all, JUST the Kitsap Sun. None of those representatives have voters in our districts so it benefits them nothing to call us. They might have made an exception for the papers from Seattle, Tacoma or Spokane, but that’s probably it. I can’t say I blame them, and they are all probably just as happy that I pulled quotes from their press releases rather than getting a specific answer about potential closures at local Social Security Administration offices. There might be a philosophical upside to calling us back, but not one that translates into stronger re-election chances in 2012.

One lawmaker, one change, one entirely different result in the Boeing/EADS contest

Boeing’s rival for the Air Force contract announced it wouldn’t contest the decision Friday, prompting statements from nearly every Washington politician we ever deal with.

Excuse the tardiness of this post. I was off work much of last week.

For a glimpse of how one change can make such a major difference in a thing like a contract, read Rob Hotakainen’s story from the McClatchy DC bureau and you’ll get an education on politics in government and how U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, pushed for one change in the contract process that may have changed the entire outcome.

From the story:

Dicks pressed the issue at the 2008 congressional hearing after learning that the Pentagon was using a 25-year timeframe to examine costs. After the hearing, the defense subcommittee voted to require the Pentagon to consider the cost of operating the new tankers over the longer 40-year lifecycle.

And then later:

In a conference call with reporters, a top Boeing official said the lifecycle costs were key to winning the contract, which will produce 50,000 jobs nationwide, many of them in Washington state and Kansas.

Federal spending will not go down

The State of the Union speech to be delivered this (Tuesday) evening by President Obama is likely to call for a couple of things aimed at the budget.

First, he’ll join Republicans in calling for an end to earmarks.

Second, he’ll call for a five-year spending freeze on non-security discretionary spending.

On the second point, “The problem there is you’re talking about 13 percent of the federal budget,” said George Behan, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

Dicks’ position of leadership even though he is again in the minority party is spelled out pretty well in a (Tacoma) News Tribune story by McClatchy Washington Bureau reporter Rob Hotakainen.

The story also references the call for no earmarks and the problems locally (think Port Orchard) that presents.

“I (Dicks) may have done it,” he said in an interview in his office on Capitol Hill last week. “I’ve been here 34 years. I may have done the best I can.”

Behan said Dicks takes issue with the president’s apparent willingness to leave defense out of the spending cut picture. Dicks gave a speech on the House floor Tuesday (The video appears below.) referencing $78 billion in defense cuts recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Behan said that in times like these, Dicks believes cuts need to be made everywhere. “He’s as strong as anybody on defense but he doesn’t believe you should exempt the Pentagon,” Behan said.

Incidentally, Dicks still doesn’t have a copy of the president’s speech, late by Washington standards. An excerpt of the Republican response to the speech has been posted on Facebook.

Non-discretionary spending is far and away the big chunk of the federal budget, items in defense, Medicare and Social Security. An overall freeze of spending would cap all spending at whatever it is this year, but the federal government would have a tough time doing that, because spending on defense, Medicare and Social Security go up every year just by maintaining the same level of service. That’s why a freeze is essentially a cut. Cutting non-discretionary spending is harder to do, Behan said.

Also part of the president’s speech tonight is . U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, spoke to that this morning on the floor of the House.

“As we’re coming out of this very deep recession, many of us believe that one of the brightest spots on our economic horizon is our ability to develop hundreds of thousands of new jobs in this country, so that America can fulfill its detiny of leading the world in clean energy development.”

The entire speech follows, as does the one from Dicks.

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Census Says: One More Washington District

Washington is getting a 10th congressional district, which will likely be placed somewhere in Western Washington. We’re planning on having a story on the issue posted online later today and running tomorrow in print. We have also written about this before, suggesting that while the state might gain a member of Congress, Kitsap County could feasibly lose one of its two.

In the meantime, you can read the press release that follows from the Secretary of State’s office.
Continue reading

A Theory on Redistricting

Dick Morrill at Crosscut makes the case that Olympia is the most likely central location for the next congressional district Washington is likely to get as a result of the Census. If his postulation is correct, that has huge implications for us.

Morrill writes:

The new Tenth, with Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Thurston counties on its south, would need to add the Olympic peninsula counties of Clallam, Jefferson, Mason, and Grays Harbor, plus 80,000 or so, probably from Pierce County rather than from Kitsap.

Some of that territory is currently in the Sixth Congressional District. So Morrill writes:

The Sixth (Democrat Norm Dicks), having lost the peninsula counties, might logically combine most (or all) of Kitsap and western Pierce, including Tacoma.

It is worth noting that these theoretical maps contain the possibility that both of our current members of Congress would be in new districts. Norm Dicks, whose official residence is in Belfair, would be part of the new 10th. Jay Inslee would become part of the Sixth if all of Kitsap was pushed. Political realities, as Morrill acknowledges, would seem to come into play here, unless Dicks and Inslee were to suggest that where they live should not play into the redistricting conversation. That could happen, I suppose, if Inslee is intent on running for governor and Dicks decides to retire. Otherwise, I don’t see it. And I would also think there would be some resistance within Kitsap County about losing one of two members of Congress with whom to ask for favors.

Earmark Reform that Maybe Isn’t

The Huffington Post, through its investigative fund, calls into question U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, for publicly saying he’d eliminate earmarks for for-profit companies, but maybe being among those finding a way around the new rules.

Instead, he and seven other legislators were found to have redirected money to non-profits for exactly the same purpose. In Dicks’ case, money that used to go to Intellicheck Mobilisa will now go to the University of Washington. The money is still related to IM’s technology, so UW have trouble answering how the university could get money to work with IM’s product.

The New York Times reported on the same method of procuring funds, saying it found dozens of cases worth more than $150 total.

Norm Dicks Has a Defender in Seattle

A few days ago I referred you the Dana Millbank column in the Washington Post offering criticism of the idea that Norm Dicks, our longtime Belfair/Bremerton/Tacoma Democrat in Congress, should ascend to the top of the House’s Appropriations Committee.

Now comes Seattlepi.com’s Joel Connelly offering a stinging rebuke to Millbank for ignoring other parts of Dicks’ history and to Rachel Maddow for snubbing her nose at Oregon. Most of the column inches focus on Millbank’s critique.

Milbank, a Yale grad and Skull and Bones man, showed that preppy arrogance can promote anti-government populism. A dose of the latter will come with unsigned anti-Dicks hate e-mails pointing out that the congressman’s son works for the Puget Sound Partnership.

Look at the bigger picture, however, how Dicks has demonstrated that government can do good stuff. He helped restore a once-seedy downtown Tacoma. He secured vital dollars for removing dams and bringing salmon runs back to the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula.

He doesn’t stop there. Connelly provides quite a lengthy resume of Dicks’ work, and bona fides supporting the idea Norm will be a budget hawk.

Speaking of Skull and Bones (John Kerry and George W. Bush are alums), I’m reading a book about a guy who was a member, worked for years at an ad agency but then got too old for them and ended up working at Starbucks.

And if you want to know more about Skull and Bones, read this piece from The Atlantic, published in 2000. I loved this part:

In an article in the 1968 Yale yearbook Lanny Davis, a 1967 Yale graduate and a secret-society member who would go on to become a White House special counsel in the Clinton Administration, described how Bones, famous for its distinguished list of members, held more sway than the others.

Come “Tap Day” … if you’re a junior, despite the fact that you’ve banged your fist at the lunch table and said, “This is 1968,” and have loudly denounced societies as anachronisms, when the captain of the football team is standing by your door and when the tower clock strikes eight he rushes in and claps your shoulder and shouts, “Skull and Bones, accept or reject?” you almost always scream out, “Accept!” and you never, never, pound your fist at the lunch table, not for that reason ever again.

Committee Ascension for Dicks Not a Given

Not long ago we shared the news that U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, might be in line for ascendancy to the House Appropriations Committee’s chairmanship following the announced retirement of U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc.

At the time there was a potential opponent, but not enough early thought that Dicks could be bypassed for the job. A subsequent offering by the Washington Post’s Dana Millbank gives some reason to wonder, though, if the timing might not be right for a substantial challenge.

Now, with the just-announced retirement of Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), Democrats are signaling that he will be replaced as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee by Dicks, the next in line — giving the honorable gentleman from Boeing broad control of about $1.4 trillion in annual discretionary spending. It’s an odd message the Democrats are sending: Return us to power, and we’ll return to business as usual.

Were the hand-off to be immediate I doubt Dicks would face a serious battle for the job. But nothing about the next Congress will be certain until November. We’re six months away from then, and as has been said time and again, in politics that’s an eternity. As much hope and fear there is out there that 2010 will be another 1994, betting on that now should pay you well if you’re right. If the state’s economist, Arun Raha, is right, the economy is rebounding, albeit slowly. Whether it will be rebounded enough by November to soften anti-incumbent sentiment we can’t be certain of now. And Raha only reduced the odds of there being a double-dip recession. He didn’t eliminate them.

Why that matters is the same reason it mattered in 2008. I read Palin’s book, and she seems to believe the economy doomed McCain’s chances to win the presidency. Few question that it certainly influenced his chances and those of other Republicans.

So much can happen between now and November that we can’t anticipate now, much as we didn’t anticipate September 2008.

All this calls into question whether Dicks will have trouble getting the Appropriations post next year. Of course, if Republicans do well enough to win back the House majority, the question is moot. So it would be if someone could beat Dicks himself.

Beyond that, though, Democrats might maintain the majority and Dicks retain his seat, but the party could see its margin shrink by a ton.

The overriding question will be whether there will be some message to Congress to shake things up. The next question will be if others see Dicks the same way Millbank does, enough to make the party shy about handing him the spot it’s clear he wants.

Norm Dicks In Line for Another Promotion

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, seems the likely choice to head to the top of the full House Appropriations Committee, now that the current seat holder is planning to retire.

The Hill, and just about everyone else, is speculating that Dicks is the most probable choice to succeed U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wisc., who announced today he won’t run for re-election this year.

This is, of course, assuming a few things. One assumption is that Dicks defeats his challengers this year. The second is that Democrats will retain their majority in the House. The third assumption is that Dicks would get more votes than anyone else that might challenge him for the top Appropriations job.