Norm Dicks has been in the House of Representatives for 35 years. During those years, he became famous for his insider deal making and bringing home the bacon to not only his district but also his family. But despite years of whispers of corruption and profiteering, he always seemed to skate past accountability.
So, when his announcement came that he was stepping down, we both were anxious to learn the back story. But first, we need to tell you more about Dicks.
Dicks has been close to scandal since he kited checks at the US House Representatives Bank in 1989. But the scandals became more brazen and more profitable as he gained in power.
In 2005, Dicks broke House Rules when he allowed a lobbying firm to pay for a vacation trip he took to a conference in Florida. The Spectrum Group was the defense lobbying firm that paid his luxury hotel bill and for his meals during the Fort Lauderdale two-night getaway in February. As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls defense spending, this is illegal.
In 2007, Dicks took over as chair of the House Interior Subcommittee. Also, about that time, Dick’s son David was appointed to run the Puget Sound Partnership. This public/private state agency was designed to help clean up Puget Sound pollution.
Early on, the project suffered from money woes, but then Dicks went to work. First came $500,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency. As federal dollars poured in to help the Puget Sound Partnership, the proud Dad, Rep. Dicks, even boasted in 2010: “Since then, we’ve put in $93 million for Puget Sound cleanup in the federal legislation.” The millions helped rescue his son’s project.
Like father like son, the Partnership was plagued with mismanagement. In May 2010, the State Auditor Brian Sonntag released a report saying the younger Dicks’ operation intentionally ignored state financial policies. Sonntag emphasized that its errant spending practices “went beyond sloppy bookkeeping.”
But it really got serious for Norm Dicks when Federal law enforcement officials raided the office of lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti and his lobby firm the PMA Group. Evidence shows that Dicks received over $500,000 in campaign contributions from PMA Group, its employees, and PMA clients.
Eventually, Magliocchetti was sentenced to 27 months in prison for making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions. At the sentencing U.S. District Court Judge T. S. Ellis III called the scandal “one of the most extensive and long-running campaign finance schemes ever,” telling Magliocchetti, “You made this choice for one reason: greed.”
This scandal took down Rep. John Murtha, but, miraculously, Norm Dicks skated again.
And it would have likely stopped then and there if not for the tenacity of a Tacoma lawyer and opponent of Dicks by the name of Doug Cloud. Cloud filed a Freedom of Information Act request that the Obama administration denied during the 2010 congressional race to get more of the records.
But Cloud tenaciously responded to the denial with a lawsuit to compel release of records and files pertaining to the FBI investigation of Congressman Norm Dicks.
The back story of Dick’s resignation is that he doesn’t want this information to come out, and Dicks chose to retire rather than prolong the story.
Doug Cloud is the hero of this cleanup of Congress.