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Sat., Feb. 24, 2007

Smart bombs

After George Nethercutt changed his mind about term limits and declared he would run for a fourth term in Congress, he said this on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer”: “I didn’t realize I’d be in the majority. I didn’t realize I’d be on the Appropriations Committee. That means something for our district – not for me, but for our district.”

As it turns out, it did mean something for the man who ran a winning campaign in 1994 as an outsider against the entrenched Tom Foley and the pork-barrel politics of Washington, D.C.

According to an article in Tuesday’s Seattle Times, Nethercutt joined the board of directors for Isothermal Systems Research shortly after losing the 2004 Senate race to Patty Murray. The Liberty Lake company was also one of the first clients Nethercutt landed after joining a D.C. lobbying firm.

Before that, Nethercutt, from his perch on the House Appropriations Committee, helped Isothermal land millions of dollars in government contracts, some via earmarks slid into spending bills. And it just so happens that Isothermal and its lobbyists were second only to Microsoft in the amount of money donated to Nethercutt’s campaigns.

This is all perfectly legal, in part because Nethercutt and his fresh-scrubbed colleagues from the Class of ‘94 were seduced by the swamp before they could drain it.

Bringing home the bacon. Nethercutt stepped down from the Isothermal board in November, but he continues to lobby for the company, which makes spray-cool technology to keep computer components from overheating.

Isothermal landed $94 million in government contracts from 2001 to 2005. More than 90 percent of its business comes from the feds, according to the Seattle Times.

None of this means Isothermal is a bad company. In fact, it employs about 200 people in the kind of jobs this region is continually trying to lure.

But the Nethercutt connection shows that one man’s pork is another man’s constituent service.

And that Mr. Outsider has become the man he ran against.

Right to privacy. In announcing Friday that John Pilcher would be replacing Jack Lynch, the city of Spokane mentioned some personal details that didn’t seem particularly pertinent to carrying out the No. 2 job at City Hall.

“He lives in Hangman Valley with his wife, Marni, and their 3-year-old daughter, Anna Rose. He has climbed mountains on four continents, including a 21-day solo ascent of Denali in Alaska.”

Geez, can’t a guy get a little privacy? And is that really of greater public interest than, say, a person in high office who doesn’t show up for weeks and then is terminated without public explanation?

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