This Washington

Decision in BIAW Case Coming Tomorrow

By Josh Feit September 29, 2010

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy will release a decision tomorrow in the battle between the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) and five small businesses who pay BIAW's workers' comp fund.

The ruling is timely because the case involves workers' comp funds, the subject of this year's Initiative 1082. I-1082, which would allow private insurers to run workers' comp funds, is being bankrolled by the BIAW. They've contributed $500,000 to the effort.

Specifically at issue in the case: The affiliates have accused BIAW (as have Democrats in the state legislature) of mixing the money in the association's workers comp fund with the BIAW's own account—and then spending the money, without member affiliates' consent or knowledge, on political causes.

The BIAW is the state's major conservative lobbying group and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on everything from Dino Rossi ads in the 2008 gubernatorial campaign to signature gathering for 1082, which would privatize the very funds at issue in the case. (I-1082, by the way, was written to allow groups like the BIAW to run funds with private insurers, but prevent smaller groups from doing the same, like BIAW's affiliates.)

"The point here," says progressive attorney Knoll Lowney and the attorney for the affiliates, "is that this is an organization that has agreed to hold hundreds of millions of dollars in trust every year,  and they've treated it as as their own money."

Lowney is asking the judge to make the BIAW restore the half million in interest that is supposed to go to the workers' comp fund.
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