Politics Blog

Complaint over free lunches for Ericksen, others dismissed

I didn't find this in The Bellingham Herald's print edition, so I am posting it here.

The story did appear online, reporting that a state legislative ethics panel dismissed the complaint against free lunches lobbyists lavished on Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and other lawmakers.

Our local Republican senator gets headline billing in this story because he was treated to more freebies, measured in dollars, than any other legislator, according to the story. When the Associated Press/public radio report broke in May, Riley Sweeney posted a good summary of the details of the Ericksen case on his blog.

Ericksen is off the hook. 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. On average, Ericksen received three free meals a week, the report said.

The panel also took a pass on a complaint that legislators were double-dipping, taking their meal per-diem on the days they also got free meals.

The panel recommended the state Legislature address the shortcoming in the law in the upcoming session, which begins on Jan. 13.

Ericksen sent an email to Republicans on May 30 responding to the "AP hack job," saying the dollar figures were inaccurate and often included events where he met with constituents, or appeared as a speaker, but did not eat.