Politics & Government

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, wants to prevent campaign fundraising before special sessions of the Legislature

A state lawmaker from Auburn wants to stop legislators — including himself — from raising campaign funds during short breaks between legislative sessions.

Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, introduced a bill this week that would ban lawmakers and statewide elected officials from fundraising 15 days before the start of a special session of the Legislature.

State law already imposes a campaign fundraising freeze while the Legislature is in session, as well as 30 days before the regular session starts. But legislators are free to raise campaign money between regular sessions and special sessions.

That means that sitting lawmakers — including state Rep. Carol Gregory, a Federal Way Democrat who is facing a special election in November — were allowed to raise money in the four-day break between the end of the Legislature’s regular session Friday and the start of its special session Wednesday.

Stokesbary said the ability to raise campaign funds leading up to special sessions provides too much incentive for the Legislature to adjourn early, as it did last week, and for the governor to delay the start of a special session to allow more fundraising time.

Had lawmakers adjourned as scheduled on Sunday and Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee called a special session to begin the next day, there would have been no time for lawmakers to accept campaign donations under the state’s rules.

Stokesbary said he trusts that his colleagues’ votes aren’t swayed by campaign contributions from lobbyists, but it can give the appearance of impropriety when lawmakers can accept donations the day before they return to Olympia to vote on legislation.

“We need to have the people’s confidence and their trust,” Stokesbary said. “By not raising money the day before the special session begins, I think that’s one way to show them we’re representing them instead of lobbyists.”

Inslee called lawmakers back to Olympia Wednesday for a special session so they could reach an agreement on a new two-year state operating budget, as well as comply with a court order that they come up with a plan for fully funding the state’s school system.

Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Inslee, said that the governor didn’t delay the start of the special session to allow more time for Gregory and other sitting lawmakers to raise money. “That was not a factor in deciding the timing,” she said.

Rather, Smith said, the governor wanted to give rank-and-file lawmakers time to go home and see their families, while allowing budget writers a chance to resolve some of the disagreements that have caused their negotiations to stall.