Legislative Ethics Board

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Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board has capped the number of free meals lawmakers can accept from lobbyists.

Now the board will consider whether lawmakers must report those meals. A meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2.

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Washington lawmakers will be allowed to accept a dozen lobbyist-paid meals per year, but no more, according to a new vote by the state’s Legislative Ethics Board.

On the low side, one board member proposed a limit of three free meals a year. On the high side there was a proposal to allow two dozen a year. Even the compromise of 12 lobbyist-paid meals per year did not receive a unanimous vote. The vote is also not a final rule. That will come this October when the board meets again.

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How often is “infrequent” when it comes to state lawmakers accepting free meals from lobbyists? Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board spent nearly two hours Tuesday taking testimony on that issue and then grappling with the answer. 

Austin Jenkins

By next January, Washington state lawmakers should have clearer guidance on when it’s OK to accept free meals from lobbyists. The state’s Legislative Ethics Board decided Tuesday to clarify the rules governing gifts in the form of food and beverage. The board’s action follows our investigation last year into lobbyist-paid meals.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

In the 1990s, an embattled President Bill Clinton created a legal defense fund. Now Washington Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen wants all state elected officials to have that option.

The Democrat, the state’s four-term lieutenant governor, is motivated by his own ethics troubles. 

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Washington’s ethics boards should define how often lawmakers can dine out at lobbyist expense, according to nearly a dozen state senators who’ve signed onto a proposal that would direct legislative and executive ethics panels to clarify the rules for lobbyist-paid meals.

mathteacherguy / Flickr

Five Republican state senators did not violate Washington ethics law when they accepted dozens of free meals from lobbyists earlier this year, according to a ruling made public Friday by Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board.

However, the board added the situation raises “serious questions” and an “enforceable” rule is needed.