Tag Archives: Norm Dicks

Decode DC: Stimulus? ‘We can’t play.’

Here is an interesting story that serves as a good way to introduce you to a Washington D.C.-based news operation recently acquired by Scripps. Decode DC, a venture started by former NPR Congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook, delves into the questions I would want to try to answer if I were a reporter in DC, something I did once aspire to a few decades ago. In recent episodes Decode DC delved into the sausage-making of the State of the Union speech, the ridiculous speculation about who the frontrunners are for the 2016 presidential race and the real issues behind the extension of unemployment benefits.

In a Kitsap Sun story in 2012 we looked at the career of former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, the Belfair (but really, Bremerton) Democrat, who was retiring with accolades from folks on Capitol Hill touting Dicks’ ability to work across the aisle. Among those singing the congressman’s praises was California Republican Jerry Lewis.

When you listen to the podcast posted above, though, you’ll see that Lewis delivered the message that Republicans in early 2009 were not going to do anything to help the new president, Democrat Barack Obama. “We can’t play,” Lewis told Democrat David Obey. Not that Republicans didn’t secretly make requests, according to Obey. They just didn’t want their bosses in House leadership to know. And so you get a stimulus package that many believe was not big enough to stir as much economic activity as was needed then.

Now, this of course ignores the thought that there are many in this country who thought that the banks should not be bailed out and there should be no economic stimulus. This particular episode challenges that idea by starting from the premise that economists on both sides were saying some stimulus was needed and by showing conservative, free-market believer George W. Bush being the one asking Congress to bail out the banks. So even some conservatives were on board with the idea of government injecting itself into the economy to save the economy.

That is until a Democrat became president, overseeing two Congressional chambers also led by Democrats. You might say Republicans could afford to say “No,” because they knew Democrats would say “Yes.” This particular podcast sheds some light on what happened behind the scenes.

It also gets Obey saying something you don’t hear politicians saying very often, that many politicians in Washington are just not very bright. You’ll have to listen to hear him say why.

When new episodes post I will likely make it a regular event to post them here.

And finally, props to the suits in Cincinnati who saw fit to buy up Decode DC.

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.

First in Kitsap: Representation for one month

The First congressional will have an election at the end of this year and it will be in the old boundaries. That means residents who live in the current first district (me and about half the county) will vote for a member of congress in two different districts.

The first will be the one to temporarily replace Jay Inslee, who resigned as congressman to run full time for governor. The other will be to vote for the replacement for Norm Dicks, who retires at the end of this term.

So if you’ve ever wanted to be a member of Congress, but two years is just too dang long, this could be your chance to fill in temporarily, get a decent little salary, free mail and a travel allowance.

The governor’s press release follows.

Continue reading

Boyer not ruling out a run for Congress

The rumor mill was right. Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer is not ruling out the idea of running to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair.

According to someone who attended a meeting of real estate pros tonight Boyer stopped by the meeting briefly and after he left those still at the event began discussing whether Boyer might run.

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

Boyer was elected Kitsap County Sheriff in 1998 as a Democrat and was a Washington State Trooper for 27 years before that. The sheriff said he was honored people called him to ask. “It’s nice people thought enough to call me from both sides of the aisle,” he said. “I gotta look at it.”

Three Republicans and one Democrat are on record so far saying they’re aiming to replace Dicks. Republicans Doug Cloud, Jesse Young and Bob Sauerwein (Based on a tip from one of the commenters I called Sauerwein and he said he withdrew three weeks ago. I have also removed him from the poll in the right column.) are lined up against Democrat Derek Kilmer, state senator from Gig Harbor.

Kilmer sent out a list of 37 leaders from the region, including 14 from Kitsap County, who have already lent an endorsement.

Boyer praised Kilmer, but said, “It’s better that we have a number of qualified candidates rather than the lesser of two evils.” He also said he thought he could do a good job in Washington, D.C.

State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, also thought about running, but decided now was not the time. Several others, including state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and state Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, may still considering whether to run.

Bainbridge could join Belfair in Congress

Congressional redistricting appears to be close to a real proposal within the state’s redistricting commission. Slade Gorton and Tim Ceis said they have a proposal ready and will provide drawings at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Don’t be surprised if there is a significant change in what was proposed earlier, but it’s worth noting that all four proposals had the entirety of Kitsap County in District Six, currently represented by Congressman Norm Dicks of Belfair.

Currently the county is pretty much cut in half between the Sixth and First districts, with the Firsties being represented by Congressman Jay Inslee, who wants to be governor. That candidacy was likely what opened the door to combining all of Kitsap into one district. Perhaps it shouldn’t have mattered, but these lines are not completely drawn without consideration for where the incumbent lives.

In California, it appears, efforts to depoliticize the process may have failed this time around, with Democrats figuring out how to game the system while Republicans sat on the sidelines. An extensive ProPublica report tells how.

Though all four proposals initially had the entirety of Kitsap in one district, moving parts in one place requires moving them elsewhere. So some of the county, particularly Bainbridge, could find itself aligned with a Seattle-area district again.

Legislative maps that earlier included a call for uniting Bainbridge with Port Townsend should be out later in the week. The deadline is Saturday, or else it goes to the state Supreme Court.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Congressman Dicks on Video

The main news peg from our meeting Tuesday morning with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, was his assertion that the Suquamish Tribe is probably not going to bend easily to pressure to OK the boardwalk Bremerton wants. Here’s the story.

Included with the story is a short video in which Dicks defends the tunnel. That question is part of the four questions on the video I’ll include here.

The video also proves that there is a reason I went into print reporting instead of broadcasting.

As I mentioned in another post, the first question has me correctly saying “Senator Obama” instead of “President Obama,” but I said “president” first. What you hear is me correcting myself and laughing about it.

Congressman Was Here — Now He’s Not

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair is stopping stopped by to visit with our editorial board. I might get got to lob a couple questions.

I’ve got some in mind, but I’m open to suggestions. Leave a comment if you’ve got one burning.

I was hoping to have the laptop in the room so I could see your questions, but I didn’t get that done. He did discuss FISA and Iraq, though probably not in the way Jake would have framed the question.

For all candidates we’ll be offering them three minutes (give or take a few seconds) on video to make the case for election. Dicks gave his three minutes, then I asked him a few questions afterward about oil drilling (offshore and ANWR), a second economic stimulus package and ferries. I also asked if he would debate his general election opponent (assuming he’s one of the top two). He said he always does, but waits for the general election.

On the three-minute speech I think we’ll wait until we get one from his opponent before we post it. On the other conversation we taped and the rest of it we’re still deciding what to do. Norm hasn’t yet sent us our editorial instructions. (In the interest of full disclosure, the previous sentence was a joke, though many of you won’t believe that.)