His fingerprints are on projects in virtually every part of Washington state. Back when downtown Tacoma was known for black tar heroin and prostitutes, Dicks provided federal funding to help restore Union Station that kickstarted the downtown revitalization.
East of the mountains, Dicks became a champion for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the Tri-Cities. Early on, Magnuson had told Dicks to give Sam Volpentest, Tri-Cities top lobbyist, whatever he wanted. Shortly before Volpentests death at 101 in 2005, Dicks flew to the Tri-Cities to visit him.
You go down the list and Dicks contributed as much to the Tri-Cities as the west side, said Gary Petersen, vice president for federal programs for the Tri-City Development Council. Hes been known as the states third senator.
There have been a few bumps along the way for Dicks during his long appropriations career.
In 2009, the Office of Congressional Ethics investigated Dicks, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania and Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia over allegations that they had obtained earmarks for clients of the PMA lobbying firm in exchange for campaign contributions.
Dicks denied any improprieties, and the agency declined to recommend that the House ethics committee expand the investigation.
Between 2007 and 2010, Dicks also faced nepotism allegations from political foes over $16 million in federal grants and earmarks that he steered to the Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency where his son was executive director.
Dicks and his son, David Dicks, denied any wrongdoing, saying the congressman had a longstanding interest in cleaning up the countrys second-largest estuary. Puget Sound had been getting peanuts in federal funding at a time when the federal government was spending millions of dollars on the cleanups of Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.
This is a very important issue for the people in my state, Dicks told the Washington Post in February 2012. This isnt about me or my son.
Dicks funding prowess grew from the wide web of connections he built, starting in November 1968 when his stint with Magnuson introduced him to Panetta and other Capital Hill aides who would later rise to prominence. By the time Dicks won election to Congress in 1976, he knew the funding process so well and had so many key contacts that House Speaker Tip ONeill of Massachusetts placed him on the prestigious Appropriations Committee, an unusual coup for a newcomer.
ONeill later said he was lobbied on behalf of Dicks by the owner of the New England Patriots, ONeills hometown football team. Turns out Dicks had randomly bumped into the Patriots owner at a Seattle Seahawks football game and asked him to put in a good word for him with ONeill.
Dicks House freshman class alone included a number of future luminaries whose advances would increase his clout over the years, among them future vice presidents Dan Quayle and Al Gore, future CIA and Pentagon chief Panetta, future presidential candidate Dick Gephardt, future White House budget chief David Stockman and future Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.
For most of the 1990s, Dicks had the White House on speed dial, paying visits to his pal Gore and becoming close with President Bill Clinton over late-night Hearts games at the card table. It was possible to see him as secretary of defense or secretary of interior if Gore had been elected president in 2000.