New contribution disclosure rules provide some transparency in the world of “soft” influence seeking. In this case, these disclosure rules require the disclosure of contributions made “in honor of” a covered official, a lawmaker, executive branch or military official. A Seattle Times article looking into these contributions in honor of Washington state lawmakers shows Rep. Norm Dicks, a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, as a frequent honoree for contributions made by corporations seeking defense contracts.
Boeing gave $10,000 earlier this year to one of Congressman Norm Dicks’ favorite charities, the National Guard Youth Foundation.
So did Boeing’s archrival, EADS, the parent company of Airbus.
But that’s small change compared to another defense contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, which gave $100,000 to the youth foundation’s gala dinner in February honoring Dicks, a Bremerton Democrat, for his staunch support of the charity.
TriWest followed that up with a $50,000 contribution to another charity event hosted by Dicks and four other members of the powerful defense-appropriations subcommittee that doled out $459 billion in contracts this year.
Giving money to a charity favored by a lawmaker isn’t quite like giving to their campaign committee, but it will likely gain you brownie points when money for your business is on the table. In this case, the desire to influence behavior, while denied by all parties involved, is plain as day for anyone looking from the outside.
Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense is quoted in the article saying, “There’s nothing outrageous at all about giving to something that helps a National Guard entity … I think it’s a soft lobbying tactic that can make lawmakers think you’re in their camp and loyal to their interests.”