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Washington delegation still does most of heavy lifting
When Boeing started eyeing Chicago, one attraction was Illinois' political clout in the nation's capital.
The state boasted Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, 20 representatives compared with Washington state's nine, and Democrat Dick Durbin, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee.
The company's megabillion-dollar deal to lease Boeing 767 refueling tankers to the Pentagon, drawn up shortly after the 9/11 attacks devastated the commercial market, seemed likely to benefit.
Initially, "Speaker Hastert was a very strong supporter of the tanker deal," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, dean of the Washington delegation.
"The speaker told me, 'Norm, you take the Pentagon, I'll take the White House' " to lobby for the deal, Dicks said.
"So Boeing improved their political situation by moving to the speaker's district," he said.
But as the uproar in Congress over the no-bid contract escalated, and evidence emerged of illegal favors between Boeing and Air Force procurement officer Darleen Druyun, the speaker was silenced.
Durbin, too, was largely absent on Boeing matters. And the Republican senator from Illinois until 2005, Peter Fitzgerald, joined with vocal Boeing critic Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to demand an end to the tanker contract.
"The heart and soul of the political support base remained — and remains — in the Washington delegation," said Steve McBee, an outside Boeing lobbyist. "They still do most of the heavy lifting."
Alicia Mundy, Seattle Times Washington bureau
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company