Gov. Boeing to Commerce?

Update, 08:15 AM PST Tuesday: Turns out Gregoire is on a sight-seeing visit to Iraq to see Washington National Guard troops. With a $6bn budget deficit in the state, we wonder how much this is costing Washington taxpayers. We also wonder why all the secrecy. After all, things are so much better in Iraq now, aren’t they?

10 PM Monday Updates at the end of this article.

With the sudden departure of Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce nominee by President-elect Barak Obama, there is a need to move quickly for a new nominee.
A report (a rumor, really) from an alternative weekly paper in Seattle, The Stranger, suggests Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington may be that replacement.

The intriguing report is here. An announcement of some kind is expected Tuesday morning (Jan. 6).

Gregoire just got elected to her second term, defeating for the second time former State Sen. Dino Rossi, a conservative Republican who very nearly won election in 2004 in this liberal state.

As governor, Gregoire has been a vociferous proponent for Boeing (as you would expect), supporting the $3,2bn tax breaks (which are now subject to an Airbus/EU complaint before the World Trade Organization) for enticing Boeing to build the 787 in Everett (WA). (Gregoire was state attorney general at the time.)

As governor, she vowed never to extend those kind of tax breaks to Airbus and its parent EADS when the firms were site-shopping for the KC-30 assembly site (though legally, it’s unclear how she could have stopped it since by the state constitution such breaks have to be offered indiscriminately to any aerospace company).

When Boeing lost the tanker contract, Gregoire was vocal in denouncing the award, and she was quick to praise the Government Accountability Office for upholding Boeing’s protest (though not quick enough–her office put out a press release criticizing the GAO, the release prepared in case the GAO denied the protest).

If the rumor proves to be true, Boeing will have a great friend in Commerce, well beyond the normal support-a-US-business-overseas type of Secretary.

Although there shouldn’t be any affect on the re-competition between Northrop Grumman and Boeing for the KC-X contract this year (assuming the Defense Department is unmoved by the silly jobs claims both sides promulgate), Commerce did find itself tangentially embroiled in the tanker competition last year.

Boeing and Northrop both used Commerce’s jobs creation formula to project jobs created by their respective tanker programs. Northrop later largely abandoned the Commerce formula and relied instead on the Labor Department’s math.

US Sen. Patty Murray (D-Boeing/Washington) wrote Commerce asking them to assess Northrop’s revised Labor Department-based projection (and presumably debunk the claim). Commerce wrote back that it could neither verify or debunk Northrop’s claims. (We wrote about this at the time.)

Airbus, years ago, also used a Commerce Department formula to identify how many jobs it created in the US through its supplier base. Murray claims Commerce could not verify Airbus’ claims and has used this ever since to accuse Airbus of lying.

What would Gregoire do with this if it all came up again? Northrop is, after all, a US company and a huge Defense contractor. So is Boeing. Would she play favorites for Boeing? We think probably, because this is politics.

What kind of state attorney general and governor has she been? We’ve lived in Washington since 1996 and saw her in both offices. We thought she was a very good attorney general, taking sometimes politically unpopular positions to uphold the law as she assessed it. She proved to be a good consumer advocate–her civil prosecution of the tobacco companies and her aggressive lawsuits against the US government to clean up the Hanford nuclear waste in South-Central Washington are two key examples. (Hanford’s role in nuclear research dates to World War II.)

As governor, we thought her to be entirely mediocre. If someone other than the right-wing Rossi had run against her either time, we would have voted for that person. (Rossi lost by 133 votes, three recounts and a court case–and those in Minnesota think they have problems; he lost by about 6 percentage points in the rematch, when Obama carried the state by 17 points.)

We’re not particularly impressed with the prospect of Gregoire at Commerce. But she’ll be very good for Boeing.

Update, 10:00 PM PST: The local Fox News station reports, citing unidentified sources in the Obama office, that Gregoire’s announcement has nothing to do with Commerce. But then Fox went on to say there are “conflicting” sources on the matter.

The local CBS station, KIRO, reports that whatever the announcement is, it is not that Gregoire is joining the Obama administration. This story is here.

3 Comments on “Gov. Boeing to Commerce?

  1. When Boeing lost the tanker contract, Gregoire was vocal in denouncing the award, and she was quick to praise the Government Accountability Office for upholding Boeing’s protest?

    REALLY I don’t recall her being vocal at all. In fact she picketed with the IAM during their strike. How is that supporting Boeing????

    • Yes, she denounced the award and yes, she praised the GAO.
      She picketed with the IAM because she was running for reelection in what was thought to be a very close raise and needed to show support for the union vote.

  2. Pingback: Gov. Boeing to Commerce (Redux) « Leeham News and Comment

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