Last Thursday, Jan. 17, I traveled to Olympia to support a University of Washington branch campus for my luminous, blue-collar City on a Hill, otherwise known as the "Athens of Puget Sound." I speak, of course, of Everett, Wash. Doubters and dilettantes guffaw, but I won't cease comparing Everett to Athens until Olympia's 964 registered lobbyists stop calling themselves "The Third House." All morning last week, "Third Housers" swarmed the Senate Higher Education Committee hearing room, flitting and jawboning and doing whatever else lobbyists are paid to do. A handful of the over-50 set, many resembling characters from a Thomas Nast cartoon, are easy to spot. The rest radiate authority by sporting nametags, metal doctor-style badges clipped to breast pockets: "Joe Schmoozmiester, The Third House." It's enough to tweak a Northwesterner's reform-minded, truth-in-labeling nerve. What's wrong with a crimson-lettered "Lobbyist" followed by a smiley face or optional exclamation point? Washingtonians have a penchant for populism and transparency, a tradition that dates back to the damn-the-railroads authors of the state constitution. We're pretty clean, comparatively speaking. Initiative 276, which passed in 1972, created the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, an agency that helps watchdogs connect the disparate, back-scratching dots. So why fuss over something as picayune as a label? Third Housers are different from you and me: They have more money. According to the Center for Public Integrity, in 2006 lobby expenses in our state were nearly $39 million. The Northwest impulse for reform, along with a weakness for utopianism, is predicated on the myth that human nature can be changed. Calling lobbyists "lobbyists" won't change human nature. It might, however, pull the shame curtain a little higher and remind lawmakers and citizens alike that they're gabbing and strategizing with paid-for advocates. Perhaps some quixotic lawmaker will consider introducing a no-fiscal-note bill that requires registered lobbyists canoodling legislators to wear badges that identify themselves as, well, lobbyists? Not "Third House," not even "Compensated Influence Provider." An unadorned, wholly Western moniker like "Hired Gun" would be OK. How sweet to watch the spectacle unfold like a scene from a Dario Fo play: Lobbyists uniting to lobby against the label "lobbyist." If only Emmett Watson and Ogden Nash were still around.