Washington Ethics Board Tackles Lobbyist-Paid Meals

By Austin Jenkins

Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board is tackling the issue of how often lawmakers can accept meals from lobbyists. The Board spent nearly two hours behind closed doors Thursday discussing a complaint against several lawmakers who dined out regularly with lobbyists last session.

The complaint was triggered by our investigation with the Associated Press into lawmakers who accept free meals from lobbyists. That’s permitted if legislative business is discussed, but only on an infrequent basis. We found dozens of lawmakers who accepted multiple meals. State Representative Jamie Pedersen serves on the Legislative Ethics Board. He says one challenge is the term “infrequent” has never been defined.

Jamie Pedersen: “I think one of our most important functions is to help legislators comply with the statute and so I think we will have a responsibility as a Board to provide some clarity for legislators going forward about how they can comply with this statue.”

Pedersen no decision has been made on how to proceed with the complaint or whether to issue new guidance to lawmakers. The discussion over lobbyist-paid meals will continue at the Ethics Board’s October meeting.

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