The Building Industry Association of Washington or BIAW is a Washington State section 501(c) non-profit organization formed in 1966 to represent the housing industry in the state of Washington against government interests to regulate their trades. BIAW's membership comprises about 12,500 member companies, home builders, trade contractors, suppliers and industry professionals.
Their mission statement is as follows:
The Building Industry Association of Washington is the voice of the housing industry in the state of Washington. The association is dedicated to ensuring and enhancing the vitality of the building industry for the benefit of its members and the housing needs of the citizens. To accomplish this purpose, the association's primary focus is to educate, influence and affect the legislative, regulatory, judicial and executive agencies of Washington's government. The Building Industry Association of Washington will offer its membership those services which can best be provided on a state wide basis and will disseminate information concerning the building industry to all association members and the public.
BIAW is the 3rd largest state association affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders. The BIAW wants lower taxes and fewer regulations, particularly environmental ones. The association wants to be a counterweight to unions and their allies.
The main source of the BIAW's political money is the state Department of Labor and Industries' Retrospective Rating Program, known as Return on Industrial Insurance Program or Retro. Through Retro, participating employers can recover a portion of their workers' compensation premiums if they are able to reduce injury rates and lower associated claim costs. Of the 40-some Retro programs in the state, BIAW has the largest. BIAW's Retro group has about 6,000 member companies. The BIAW collects 20 percent of the workers' compensation refunds provided by the state to run the insurance program and pay for political work.. Legally membership dues cannot be used for political activity but the BIAW claims there are no rules against using insurance refund money for that purpose. This translates into about $3–4 million from the refunds in each of the past few years. In 2009, a computer programming error was uncovered that resulted in the Dept. of L&I refunding $10 million to $15 million more per year more than they were supposed to for the last fifteen years.
BIAW-MSC was set up in order to manage the Retro program. BIAW Member Services Corporation (BIAW-MSC) is a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of BIAW formed in 1993. BIAW-MSC also sells insurance and runs educational programs.
In 2008, the BIAW spent more supporting Dino Rossi for governor than the Republican party had spent on all races during the year. More than $7 million provided by the BIAW was spent on ads attacking Rossi's opponent, Gov. Christine Gregoire. Rossi's top contributor was the BIAW.
The group also spent heavily in 2006 in an attempt to oust state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. The BIAW spent nearly $1 million on the primary campaign. The group's advertisements stated that John Groen would do a better job of protecting what they claimed to be "our constitutional rights to limited, open and accountable government". TV attack ads portraying Justice Alexander as an judge too old for the job were bought by the group. In 2004, more than $500,000 was spent on independent ads by the BIAW to help Dino Rossi. Rob McKenna, now Attorney General, received more than $415,000 from the "It's Time for A Change", one of BIAW's PACs. The BIAW gave $150,000 towards getting their former lawyer, Jim Johnson, elected as a State Supreme Court Justice. State Supreme Court justice Richard Sanders received $35,000 from the BIAW which is more than one fifth of his re-election expenses.
While the BIAW has been massively contributing to Republican candidates, Democratic candidates also have accepted BIAW contributions, such as Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, state Auditor Brian Sonntag, Rep. Deb Wallace, Rep. Marko Liias, Rep. Christine Rolfes, Rep, Al O'Brien, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Rep. Fred Jarrett, Rep. Judy Clibborn, Rep. Deb Eddy, Rep. Ross Hunter, Rep. Liz Loomis, Rep. Larry Springer, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, Sen. James Hargrove, and Rep. Dave Quall.
The BIAW uses PACs to fund various campaigns. BIAW has several PACs. Washington Affordable Housing Council, "It's Time for a Change" and "Walking for Washington". The same legal contact information appears for all BIAW PACs.
The BIAW also gives funds to local affiliates such as the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish County, and the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County.
In 2008 a letter to Attorney General Rob McKenna and three county prosecutors accused the BIAW of amassing $3.5 million in an illegal secret fund for its campaign to defeat Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. It also claims that the builders associations have failed to properly register as "political committees" or report where the money is coming from. The accusation comes from a group led by two former state Supreme Court justices Faith Ireland and Robert Utter. The group said it would sue if the government attorneys do not take action against the BIAW and two local builders associations. PDC investigators dismissed calims that the BIAW is acting as a PAC. The PDC did find evidence that the BIAW-MSC was improperly concealing its role in bundling about $585,000 in workers' compensation refunds for donation to the BIAW's political arm. McKenna filed a lawsuit against the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties and a second lawsuit against the BIAW-MSC, a subsidiary of the BIAW. King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas required Rossi to testify about his personal involvement in the building association's fundraising campaign a few days before the 2008 election. Rossi did not remember details about his dealings with the BIAW and stated the lawsuit was a "phony complaint by political operatives".
The BIAW opposes regulations that constrain the home builder. They say the regulations add additional costs to homes. According to Damon Doyle, former president of the Building Industry Association of Washington, “Builders are not opposed to warranties. Builders are opposed to broad, vague and involuntary mandatory warranties.” “We have to look out for the consumers who are obligating themselves to 30-year mortgages,” said Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia.
The industry association opposed HB 1391. The legislation would have mandated a warranty for all new residences. The BIAW says there is no insurance product available to cover builders and that the bill prohibits anyone choosing to waive the implied warranty of habitability. The group also says that it is simply a new and easier way to sue builders. Heavily amended, the bill passed the House on to the Senate. According to the BIAW, it was defeated there with the help of Democratic Senator Mary Margaret Haugen.
A similar bill SB5895 was introduced in the Senate by Democrat Sen. Rodney Tom sought to impose warranties on all new homes, mandating third-party inspections prior to closing.  The BIAW worked with the Democratic Speaker of the House Frank Chopp to defeat this legislation.
BIAW has put proposals before the Washington State Building Code Council to remove mandatory statewide fire sprinkler requirement for new homes.
The BIAW opposed connecting Climate Changea with growth legislation. The BIAW opposes critical areas ordinances (CAO). In Thurston County BIAW et al v. WWGMHB (Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Boards) et al., the Court agreed with the BIAW.
The BIAW is Washington state's biggest lobby against climate change, open space, and other environmental legislation. The group's newsletter has gone so far to equate environmentalists with terrorists. The BIAW is unlike other business groups in Olympia according to environmental lobbyist Clifford Traisman. "They are to the far right of most business in Washington state," Traisman says. "They believe the free market should rule supreme."
In 2005, the southern resident orcas were designated an endangered species. In 2006, the BIAW along with the Washington Farm Bureau sued the government to remove orcas from the endangered list. The legal challenge was thrown out of U.S. District Court.
In 2007, the group challenged the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that protects threatened and endangered salmon across the West.
In 2009, the BIAW has been fighting environmental legislation such as solar water heaters in new homes.
In 2003, the BIAW ran a signature drive for I-841 to repeal the state's ergonomic regulations and strip the Director of the Department of Labor and Industries of making any further ergonomic rules. The initiative also promised the voters that repeal of the ergonomic regulations would "aid in creating jobs and employing the people of Washington." According to the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, experts estimated complying with the ergonomics rule would have cost businesses $725 million for the first year alone. At the time, Washington was the only state with an ergonomics rule. In an opposing opinion piece, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer contends that "Initiative 841 runs roughshod over the working public's right to safety, the normal processes of government and the state's power. Instead of fine-tuning ergonomics rules adopted by the state Department of Labor and Industries, the initiative asks voters to bulldoze aside protections against repetitive injuries." The BIAW and its members spent more than $1 million on the initiative. They outspent labor unions opposing it two to one.
In 2005, the BIAW considered sponsoring a so-called "right-to-work" initiative. Unions see "right-to-work" initiatives as union-busting and de-funding the Democratic Party. BIAW Executive VP McCabe said the group wants to do something dramatic to retaliate against recent efforts in the Democrat-controlled Legislature that would have taken a multimillion-dollar bite out of the association and removed much of its political clout. Labor Council President Rick Bender said if a right-to-work measure makes it to the ballot, union members would "come out in force" to defeat it. Bender sees such an action as businesses declaring war on their workers.
The BIAW-funded Washington Policy Center made budget cut recommendations that reveal another element of BIAW's agenda. The largest cut recommended to Governor Gregoire was a billion dollar cut in public school funding. In 2007, the BIAW helped defeat the Concurrency Requirements for Public Schools bill, SB 6269. SB 6269 would have required that school facilities be available within a certain schedule of new development to prevent school overcrowding. It also called for increased land use and capital facilities planning coordination between cities, counties and local school districts.
The BIAW is generally anti-tax, but in 2005 they lobbied for an excise tax to replace so-called "impact fees" that local governments assess on new construction.
In the 2006 election, more than $4 million was spent on three state Supreme Court races.  To counter this excessive spending, Governor Christine Gregoire allocated money to study the public financing of judges. The BIAW's Tom McCabe came out against this, threatening to sue and calling the idea "blatantly unconstitutional." McCabe contends that public financing of election campaigns "limits rights to free speech for groups like ours and others."
The BIAW heavily lobbied against SB 6035. The bill would require groups participating in the Retro program to report how they spend money paid by employers. It passed the Senate by a narrow 25-24 margin. Republicans claimed the bill was an attack on free speech and the BIAW. Retro groups should be able to use refund money as they wish. But Democrats countered that the bill was intended to bring transparency to the system in light of a computer coding error that cost the state untold millions in overstated refunds to the Retro pool.