Building Industry Association of Washington

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The Building Industry Association of Washington or BIAW is a Washington State section 501(c) non-profit organization[1] formed in 1966 to represent the housing industry in the state of Washington against government interests to regulate their trades. BIAW's membership comprises about 7,735 member companies, home builders, trade contractors, suppliers and industry professionals.


BIAW is the 3rd largest state association affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders. The BIAW wants lower taxes and fewer regulations, particularly environmental ones. The association wants to be a counterweight to unions and their allies that have helped keep the governor's office in Democratic hands since the 1984 election.[2]


  • Bob Johnson, President[3][4]
  • Monty Smith, First Vice President[4]
  • Kevin Kartak, Second Vice President[4]
  • Dave Main, Treasurer
  • Patrick Hayes, Secretary
  • Art Castle, Executive Vice President


The main source of the BIAW's political money is the state Department of Labor and Industries' Retrospective Rating Program, known as Return on Industrial Insurance Program or Retro.[5] Through Retro, participating employers can recover a portion of their workers' compensation premiums if they are able to reduce injury rates and lower associated claim costs. Of the 40-some Retro programs in the state, BIAW has the largest. BIAW's Retro group has about 1,600 member companies.[6] The BIAW collects 20 percent of the workers' compensation refunds provided by the state of which ten percent goes to BIAW and ten percent goes to local associations.[2] This translates into about $3–4 million from the refunds in each of the past few years.[6] In 2009, a computer programming error was uncovered that resulted in the Dept. of L&I refunding $10 million to $15 million more per year more than they were supposed to for the last fifteen years.[7][8]

BIAW-MSC was set up in order to manage the Retro program. BIAW Member Services Corporation (BIAW-MSC) is a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of BIAW formed in 1993.[1] BIAW-MSC also sells insurance and runs educational programs.[1]

Campaign Financing[edit]

In 2008, the BIAW contributed to Dino Rossi for governor.[2][relevant? ] More than $7 million provided by the BIAW was spent on ads.[5] Rossi's top contributor was the BIAW.[2]

The group also spent heavily in 2006 in an attempt to oust state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander.[9] The BIAW spent nearly $1 million on the primary campaign.[10] The advertisements said John Groen would do a better job of protecting "our constitutional rights to limited, open and accountable government".[11] TV ads portraying Justice Alexander as a judge too old for the job were bought by the group.[12] In 2004, more than $500,000 was spent on independent ads by the BIAW to help Dino Rossi.[9][13] Rob McKenna, now Attorney General, received more than $415,000 from the "It's Time for A Change", one of BIAW's PACs.[10] The BIAW gave $150,000 on the campaign of their former lawyer, Jim Johnson, running for State Supreme Court Justice.[14] State Supreme Court justice Richard Sanders received $35,000 from the BIAW.[15]

While the BIAW has been contributing to Republican candidates, Democratic candidates also have received BIAW contributions, including Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, state Auditor Brian Sonntag, Rep. Deb Wallace, Rep. Marko Liias, Rep. Christine Rolfes, Rep, Al O'Brien, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Rep. Fred Jarrett, Rep. Judy Clibborn, Rep. Deb Eddy, Rep. Ross Hunter, Rep. Liz Loomis, Rep. Larry Springer, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, Sen. James Hargrove, and Rep. Dave Quall.[16]

The BIAW uses PACs to fund various campaigns. BIAW has several PACs.[17][18] Washington Affordable Housing Council, "It's Time for a Change"[1] and "Walking for Washington".[1] The same legal contact information appears for all BIAW PACs.[19]

The BIAW also gives funds to local affiliates such as the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties,[20] and the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County.

Legal challenges[edit]

In 2008 a letter to Attorney General Rob McKenna and three county prosecutors accused the BIAW of amassing $3.5 million in an illegal secret fund for its campaign to defeat Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. It also claims that the builders associations failed to properly register as "political committees" or report where the money is coming from. The accusation comes from a group led by two former Democratic state Supreme Court justices Faith Ireland and Robert Utter. The group said it would sue if the government attorneys do not take action against the BIAW and two local builders associations.[21] PDC investigators dismissed the claims that the BIAW is acting as a PAC. The PDC did find evidence that the BIAW-MSC was improperly concealing its role in bundling about $585,000 in workers' compensation refunds for donation to the BIAW's political arm. McKenna filed a lawsuit against the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and a second lawsuit against the BIAW-MSC, a subsidiary of the BIAW.[22] King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas required Rossi to testify about his personal involvement in the building association's fundraising campaign a few days before the 2008 election.[23] Rossi did not remember details about his dealings with the BIAW and stated the lawsuit was a "phony complaint by political operatives".[23]

Legislative and political agenda[edit]

Homeowner protection legislation[edit]

The BIAW says it opposes regulations which add additional costs to homes. Damon Doyle, former president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, said “Builders are not opposed to warranties. Builders are opposed to broad, vague and involuntary mandatory warranties.”[24] “We have to look out for the consumers who are obligating themselves to 30-year mortgages,” said Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia.

The industry association opposed HB 1391.[25] The legislation would have mandated a warranty for all new residences. The BIAW says there is no insurance product available to cover builders and that the bill prohibits anyone choosing to waive the implied warranty of habitability, just providing a new and easier way to sue builders.[26]

Washington was the sixth state to reject the mandatory use of fire sprinklers in all new home construction, which had been proposed by the ICC. The SBBC (State Building Code Council) found that the cost of fire sprinklers in new homes would be from $1.50 to $8.50 per sq. ft.[27]

Land-use regulations[edit]

The BIAW opposed connecting Climate Change with growth legislation.[28] The BIAW opposes critical areas ordinances (CAO).[29] In Thurston County BIAW et al. v. WWGMHB (Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Boards) et al., the Court agreed with the BIAW.[30]

Environmental regulations[edit]

According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the BIAW is Washington state's biggest lobby against climate change and open space legislation. After the firebombing of the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture by the Earth Liberation Front, classified as the top "domestic terror" threat in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March 2001,[31][32][33] the BIAW newsletter said: The older folks in the mainstream enviro groups silently applaud this new and novel approach: If you build it, we will burn it. It's the next natural step in the environmental movement.[33]

Worker protection[edit]

In 2003, the BIAW ran a signature drive for I-841[34] to repeal the state's ergonomic regulations and strip the Director of the Department of Labor and Industries of making any further ergonomic rules. The initiative also promised the voters that repeal of the ergonomic regulations would "aid in creating jobs and employing the people of Washington."[35] According to the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, experts estimated complying with the ergonomics rule would have cost businesses $725 million for the first year alone. At the time, Washington was the only state with an ergonomics rule. In an opposing opinion piece, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer contends that "Initiative 841 runs roughshod over the working public's right to safety, the normal processes of government and the state's power. Instead of fine-tuning ergonomics rules adopted by the state Department of Labor and Industries, the initiative asks voters to bulldoze aside protections against repetitive injuries."[36] The BIAW and its members spent more than $1 million on the initiative. They outspent labor unions opposing it two to one.[37] The Yakima Herald-Republic supported the initiative.[38]

Right to work[edit]

In 2005, the BIAW considered sponsoring a "right-to-work" initiative.[39] Unions see "right-to-work" initiatives as union busting and de-funding the Democratic Party. BIAW Executive VP McCabe said the group wants to do something dramatic to retaliate against recent efforts in the Democrat-controlled Legislature that would have taken a multimillion-dollar bite out of the association and removed much of its political clout.[39] According to the AFL-CIO, the BIAW has "repeatedly threatened to file a right-to-work initiative and freely admits their effort would be in retaliation for labor’s advocacy on an unrelated workers’ compensation issue." [40] Labor Council President Rick Bender said if a right-to-work measure (from the BIAW) makes it to the ballot, union members would "come out in force" to defeat it. Bender sees such an action as businesses declaring war on their workers.[39]

New home impact fees[edit]

In 2005 the BIAW lobbied for an excise tax to replace so-called "impact fees" that local governments assess on new construction.[41]


The BIAW lobbied against SB 6035. The bill would require groups participating in the Retro program to report how they spend money paid by employers. It passed the Senate by a narrow 25-24 margin.[6] Republicans said the bill was an attack on free speech and that Retro groups should be able to use refund money as they wish. Democrats said that the bill was intended to bring transparency to the system in light of a computer coding error that cost the state untold millions in overstated refunds to the Retro pool.[6]

Workman's Comp[edit]

In 2010, after the Democratic led legislature declined to reform Washington's state-run workers' single-payer compensation system, the BIAW launched ballot initiative I-1082 to allow private insurers to compete with the state’s monopoly system.[42]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Washington State Public Disclosure v. BIAW Member Services Corporation" (PDF). Attorney General of Washington. 2008-09-19. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-01-16. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d Bob Young (2008-10-17). "BIAW, Rossi's biggest backer, explains what it wants". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  3. ^ Ingrid Stegemoeller (2008-12-27). "Washington's top builder followed dad's path". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  4. ^ a b c "BIAW Leadership". BIAW. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  5. ^ a b Chris McGann (2008-11-12). "Democrats eye BIAW cash source". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  6. ^ a b c d Michelle Dupler (2009-03-13). "Legislative roundup: Senate bill discussion gets testy". Tri-City Herald. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  7. ^ Mark Fefer (2009-02-10). "BIAW Turns Out To Be Right About Government Bureaucrats--And Profitably So". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  8. ^ Steve Pierce (2009-02-10). "Computer coding error corrected in Retrospective Rating Program". L&I News. Archived from the original on 2009-12-12. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  9. ^ a b Chris McGann (2008-06-20). "Soft money fuels the race for governor". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  10. ^ a b Gregory Roberts (2006-10-18). "Election 2006: Money is surging through campaigns". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 
  11. ^ Stefan Sharkansky (2006-09-14). "Gerry Alexander: Awful Chief Justice, dirty campaigner". Sound Politics. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  12. ^ Raplh Thomas (2006-09-07). "Building-industry ads hammer judge". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  13. ^ George Howland, Jr. (2004-11-17). "Political Capital". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  14. ^ Lewis Kamb (2005-01-13). "Meandering money stream feeds ongoing election fight". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  15. ^ Lewis Kamb (2005-03-14). "Election case poses many potential conflicts of interest for justices". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-12-02. 
  16. ^ Chris McGann (2008-08-08). "Some Dems assail BIAW, take its cash". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  17. ^ Joel Connelly (2008-06-10). "A special interest tarnishes governor's race". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-17. 
  18. ^ Joel Connelly (2009-10-27). "Outside groups do candidates' dirty work". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  19. ^ "Change PAC Ads Getting Media Attention". WSFB. 2008-07-11. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  20. ^ "Complaint filed against Building Industry Association of Washington --PDC Case No. 04-300" (PDF). Public Disclosure Commission. 2004-05-19. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  21. ^ Ralph Thomas (2008-07-25). "BIAW accused of pooling $3.5 million in illegal secret fund to defeat Gregoire". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  22. ^ Rachel La Corte (2008-09-20). "Attorney general McKenna sues builders groups over campaign violations". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  23. ^ a b Kathy Mulady (2008-10-30). "Rossi deposition exposes bitter gubernatorial campaign". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-12-13. 
  24. ^ Richard Roesler (2009-02-05). "Legislators hear from frustrated homeowners". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2009-12-11. 
  25. ^ Joel Connelly (2009-09-11). "State Senate passes homeowner's Bill of Rights". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  26. ^ Doug Reiser (2009-04-02). "Washington Wax Political: BIAW Proposals Include Killing Warranty Legislation". Construction Law Monitor. Archived from the original on March 1, 2012. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  27. ^ "Victory for Homebuilders: Code Council Rejects Mandatory Fire Sprinklers" (PDF). Building Industry Association of Washington. 2009-11-12. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  28. ^ Joel Connelly (2009-06-03). "The BIAW gives bravos to Democratic Legislature". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  29. ^ Andy Cook (2008-09-03). "King County's oppression could show up in Kitsap". Port Orchard Independent. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  30. ^ "Supreme Court - Briefs". Court of Appeals, State of Washington, Div 2. 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  31. ^ Earth Liberation Front is now FBI's No. 1: Mainstream media finally pick up on the concern of ecoterrorism, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc, March 2001.
  32. ^ Congressional Testimony: "The Threat of Eco-Terrorism" Archived October 2, 2002, at the Wayback Machine., FBI, February 12, 2002.
  33. ^ a b Joel Connelly (2008-04-01). "Building group lobs the T-word at enviros". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-11-19. 
  34. ^ "BIAW files initiative to block ergonomics rule". Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal. 2003-04-04. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  35. ^ "Initiative 841" (PDF). Secretary of State, Washington. 2003. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  36. ^ "Voters should reject I-841". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 2003-10-30. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  37. ^ Ralph Thomas (2003-11-09). "Building lobby on roll with ergonomics win". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-12-17. 
  38. ^ Yakima Herald-Republic, 26 October 2003
  39. ^ a b c Ralph Thomas (2005-03-28). "Builders' group eyes anti-union initiative". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  40. ^ ""Right-to-work" vs Free Bargaining"". Washington State Labor Council. Archived from the original on 2010-07-06. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  41. ^ Ralph Thomas (2005-11-28). "Allies split over home-sales tax plan". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-12-01. 
  42. ^ Brad Shannon (2010-04-16). "BIAW to push initiative on workers' comp I-1082: Private insurance plan rejected by Legislature this year". The Olympian. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2010-04-22.