Boeing made donations ahead of tax break offer

OLYMPIA — Boeing Co. campaign contributions to state lawmakers don’t usually draw much attention — until the checks are cut days before the Legislature votes to give the aerospace giant a huge tax break.

That’s what appears to be the case in a review of records filed earlier this month with the state Public Disclosure Commission which tracks political money in Washington.

Those documents show that Boeing gave the maximum donation of $900 to seven lawmakers, for a total of $6,300.

The firm reported making the donations Nov. 4, one day before Gov. Jay Inslee called a special session to approve tax incentives valued at nearly $9 billion in hopes of securing work on the company’s next generation 777X jetliner.

Six of the seven voted for the tax package which the House passed 75-11 and the Senate approved 42-2. The other lawmaker was excused at the time of the vote. None of the seven reported receiving the money until after the special session ended Nov. 9.

Boeing makes contributions to campaigns of lawmakers as well as mayors and county executives throughout the year, so the November donations didn’t surprise Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, or Rep. Marko Liias, D-Everett. Neither legislator received a donation.

“I think it’s at best a coincidence,” Liias said of the timing. “I think the policy choice we made was pretty clear from the outset. It wasn’t a case where the outcome was hanging in the balance.”

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick also received a contribution in November for his campaign next year. Lovick traveled to Olympia to testify on the bill and lobby for its passage during the three-day extra session.

He said he was motivated “by three simple words: jobs, jobs, jobs” and the Boeing contribution had nothing to do with his position.

This wasn’t Lovick’s first contribution from the company. He received $2,275 during his tenure as a state lawmaker but no donations when he ran for Snohomish County sheriff in 2007.

Boeing contributes to Washington state political campaigns with some regularity. It has given more than $3.1 million to political groups and campaigns since the late 1990s, according to commission records.

Documents filed in August contain three pages of contributions to lawmakers, including the leaders of each of the four caucuses in the Legislature. All the donations were reportedly made July 31.

Hobbs and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, were listed as receiving $900 apiece for their respective re-election campaigns in 2014.

“I think they wrote me a check because they know I am a supporter of aerospace,” said Hobbs, who serves on the task force which advised Inslee on the tax incentives passed in the special session.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson also garnered one of those $900 contributions for his re-election this year, though it doesn’t appear in his campaign filings until Oct. 27. Stephanson, who ran unopposed this year, has received $4,950 from the company since 2005.

In its donations ahead of the special session, Boeing supported Republican Sens. John Braun, Sharon Brown and John Smith; Republican Reps. Norm Johnson, Charles Ross and Shelly Short; and Democratic Rep. Dave Upthegrove. Brown, Smith and Upthegrove had campaigns this year.

The lawmakers declined comment or didn’t return messages left with staff members. A Boeing official declined immediate comment.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Reporter Dan Catchpole and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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