Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state Sen. Reuven Carlyle and Rep. Mike Pellicciotti (D-Federal Way) – on the House side – recently reintroduced their government ethics proposal to establish a one-year lobbying prohibition for former high-ranking state officials. The legislation also requires disclosure of where former officials are employed after state service, if they are paid by an entity that does business with or lobbies the state.
Under current law, many state officials and employees can leave a state job and start work the following day as a lobbyist paid to influence former colleagues.
In 2015, Washington received a D+ for government accountability from the Center for Public Integrity on its scorecard assessing rules governing disclosure, accountability and influence peddling. While Washington ranked better than most states (coming in eighth overall), a key factor in Washington’s low grade is the lack of a “cooling off” period before public officials can lobby their former co-workers. The Center described this revolving door as a “big ethical loophole” in Washington.
“I continue to believe it is unacceptable for a government official to conclude their public service on Friday and begin paid corporate lobbying on Monday,” said Carlyle. “I’m committed to partnering with Attorney General Ferguson and Rep. Pellicciotti until this important ethics improvement is the law of the land.”
Pellicciotti sponsors House bill 1159, which would establish a one-year “cooling off” period for elected officials, agency heads and senior staff as follows:
Officials covered: statewide elected officials, state legislators, heads of executive cabinet agencies, and chiefs of staff or top administrators and other senior executive staff of such agencies and offices.
May not: Serve as a paid lobbyist for others, be paid to attempt to influence state action by a state agency.
Officials covered: Heads of agencies not covered in Category A, and chiefs of staff or top administrators and other senior executive staff of such agencies and offices.
May not: Serve as a paid lobbyist for others regarding the former employer agency’s matters, be paid to attempt to influence state action by the former employing agency.
The bill also requires disclosure from former elected officials, agency heads and senior-level staff when leaving state service if he or she receives compensation from an entity that does business with or lobbies the state.
“I have heard from countless members of my district that they want a new way of doing business in Olympia,” Pellicciotti said. “This bill is a common-sense way to instill more public confidence in government.”
“We hold very high ethical standards in Washington, but in this area we are failing,” said Sen. Mark Miloscia (R–Federal Way), chair of the Senate State Government Committee. “Changing this rule will help ensure our state leaders are focused on public service, not using positions of influence as a stepping stone to a payday.”
The federal government and at least 31 states require a “cooling off” period to slow the revolving door between the public and private sectors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.