Posted by: sweeneyblog | December 30, 2013

Ericksen Escapes Ethics Charge on Vague Language

This is what happens when you don’t write strong ethics laws, they become unenforceable.

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Sen. Doug Ericksen

Case in point, Sen. Doug Ericksen dined with lobbyists during last year’s session almost every other day he was in Olympia. He also “double dipped,” taking a per diem reimbursement for meals that were already paid for by lobbyists. He received more lobbyist meals than any other state legislator, by an almost 2-to-1 ratio. Naturally, the state legislative ethics panel took up the issue.

And dismissed the complaints. According to a great story in the Bellingham Herald, “The ethics panel determined that the law that says legislators should not accept free meals on more than ‘infrequent occasions’ was too vague to apply in this case.”

They recommended the state legislature take up this issue and tighten up the language. If I was a lazier political writer, I’d include a reference to foxes guarding the hen house, but I’m not, so I’ll simply say that this sounds like a bad idea. Ethics laws require clear, direct language and actionable consequences; it is essential to a functioning democracy.

While Sen. Ericksen gets off scot free this time, I hope they will fix this language as quickly and thoroughly as possible.



  1. “scott free” In the sense of free of formal punishment, he managed to dodge being accountable to the Law. But in the broader sense he will have to account to the people of the 42nd District, Whatcom County and the State of Washington.


    Has he stopped accepting these gratuities? Is he still applying for the “per diem” ? Will he support strong clear language in a new bill? Sponsor? Vote for it? Has he reported the meals and the cash as “taxable tips” on his Federal tax filings?

    Which brings us back to “scott free”. Etymology. From Old English scotfreo (“exempt from royal tax”). maybe.

    • And how about Obama submitting his ongoing fund raising trips on Air Force One and billing us (the taxpayers) for it. Now that is per diem.

      • It would be cheaper(better) if the Prez took the bolt bus? It is not the amount of money that is at issue – rather it was how it was obtained.(made its way into the Senators pocket)

        Don’t change the subject – unless you are making a backhanded endorsement of petty theft.

  2. Yes, and just WHO should make this change happen? Seems in order for anything to happen it will require some “pushing” from the Democrats who understand the need for change. I would “vote” for the Senator and Representatives in the 40th LD. A New Year’s Resolution maybe? I’m not sure what the process will be BUT hopefully somebody knows. !!?

  3. […] year started out so strong for Sen. Doug Ericksen. He had avoided any ethical charges for his double-dipping on meal reimbursements and played a key role in pushing the Republican agenda on climate change […]

  4. […] After two years of bad press for receiving the most free meals with corporate lobbyists, and the surrounding ethical concerns about getting reimbursed for meals he didn’t pay for, the Whatcom Republicans are trying to play off Ericksen’s desires for free meals as a […]

  5. […] run up to the primary while the Fleetwood. The Fleetwood campaign responded with a few mailers over Ericksen’s ethical troubles but not nearly with the same volume of pieces. As the Democratic candidates for County Council […]

  6. […] as I hate the cliche, this looks like a people-powered campaign funded by small donors eager to see Ericksen’s ethically-challenged political career come to an […]

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