Washington state Representative Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, pretty clearly is guilty of what he was charged with: Posting (or, the posting by staffers) of press releases from his office on his legislative web site during campaign season.
The board’s description: “A legislator’s use of legislative press releases, prepared with the facilities of the House of Representatives, through the posting of those releases on his campaign web site is a violation of RCW 42.52.180 – use of public resources to assist a campaign.” Goodman stipulated to the violation, the board said.
The releases have been removed, and we haven’t seen them. So we can’t really judge a key point – legally irrelevant but logically of concern: Were these news releases relevant to regular legislative or constituent business, or were they aimed at campaign benefit? They apparently were a legal violation either way, but if they reflected general legislative business, this kind of violation, maybe, shouldn’t be.
The Olympia Dispatch blog (of the Tri-City Herald) quotes one board member, Representative Jamie Pedersen (who was onthe minority side in the decision), D-Seattle, this way: “Once prepared, press releases drafted for legislators are public records under the Public Records Act and should be broadly available to the general public, even (or especially) in the context of campaigns. There is no question that a member of the public who made a public records request for those press releases would be entitled to receive a copy of the releases and the state would expend resources in the form of staff time to make those available. Here a legislator’s campaign, at its expense and no additional expense to the state, proposes to make public records more broadly available to the voters to help them make an informed decision at the next election.”
It seems a generally reasonable point. A number of state web sites (Oregon is another like this) are awfully restrictive on what lawmakers can post; Washington legislators of both parties have been snared by what seem like over-restrictive rules. There’s good reason for taking care that taxpayer funds aren’t being used in support of campaigns, but there should be some way of allowing legislators to do part of what they’re supposed to do – communicate with the public – during the whole course of their terms.Share on Facebook