Demands in letter to Democrat leader campaign group’s reservations be canceled
OLYMPIA…It is illegal for state resources to be used for campaign purposes, including training, but that is what Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville says is happening at the Legislative Building in Olympia this session. Schoesler sent a letter to Sen. Democrat Leader Billig calling attention to the issue and demanding that the reservations be canceled.
Emerge Washington, which bills itself as an organization dedicated to recruiting and training women to run for Democrat political offices, has twice used state meeting space on the Legislative campus from Feb. 23 – 24. The group is scheduled to use state facilities a third time today, Feb. 25.
“This is not only highly inappropriate and unethical, it is illegal,” said Schoesler. “Campaign activity of any kind, including training future political candidates, is strictly prohibited under state law. It does not matter that they are not running for office yet. It is campaign activity.
“Those training to run for public office should not start their careers learning how to use facilities paid for with taxpayer dollars in order to advance their political careers.”
The reservation bookings were made by staff from the offices of Sen. Claire Wilson and Sen. Sam Hunt. The reservations also violate Washington state legislative ethics rules.
Wilson also discussed the activities of Emerge Washington during a point of personal privilege when she introduced the group on the Senate Floor on Feb. 25, which is a violation of Senate Rule 33.
Use of public resources for political campaigns.
(1) No state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition. Knowing acquiescence by a person with authority to direct, control, or influence the actions of the state officer or state employee using public resources in violation of this section constitutes a violation of this section. Facilities of an agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of state employees of the agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the agency.
(2) This section shall not apply to the following activities:
(a) Action taken at an open public meeting by members of an elected legislative body to express a collective decision, or to actually vote upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance, or to support or oppose a ballot proposition as long as (i) required notice of the meeting includes the title and number of the ballot proposition, and (ii) members of the legislative body or members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression of an opposing view;
(b) A statement by an elected official in support of or in opposition to any ballot proposition at an open press conference or in response to a specific inquiry. For the purposes of this subsection, it is not a violation of this section for an elected official to respond to an inquiry regarding a ballot proposition, to make incidental remarks concerning a ballot proposition in an official communication, or otherwise comment on a ballot proposition without an actual, measurable expenditure of public funds. The ethics boards shall adopt by rule a definition of measurable expenditure;
(c) The maintenance of official legislative web sites throughout the year, regardless of pending elections. The web sites may contain any discretionary material which was also specifically prepared for the legislator in the course of his or her duties as a legislator, including newsletters and press releases. The official legislative web sites of legislators seeking reelection or election to any office shall not be altered, other than during a special legislative session, beginning on the first day of the declaration of candidacy filing period specified in RCW 29A.24.050 through the date of certification of the general election of the election year. The web site shall not be used for campaign purposes;
(d) Activities that are part of the normal and regular conduct of the office or agency; and
(e) De minimis use of public facilities by statewide elected officials and legislators incidental to the preparation or delivery of permissible communications, including written and verbal communications initiated by them of their views on ballot propositions that foreseeably may affect a matter that falls within their constitutional or statutory responsibilities.
(3) As to state officers and employees, this section operates to the exclusion of RCW 42.17A.555.
[ 2017 c 7 § 2; 2011 c 60 § 30; 2010 c 185 § 1; 1995 c 397 § 30; 1994 c 154 § 118.]
Senate Rule 33.
Any senator may rise to a question of privilege and explain a personal matter by leave of the president, but shall not discuss any pending question in such explanations, nor shall any question of personal privilege permit any senator to introduce any person or persons in the galleries. The president upon notice received may acknowledge the presence of any distinguished person or persons.
A question of privilege shall involve only subject matter which affects the particular senator personally and in a manner unique and peculiar to that senator.