My opponent in this race for State Senator for the 18th Legislative District is Senator Ann Rivers. She is a smart, tough and charming person. It’s no accident that she has been a strong player in Clark County politics for a long time. Much earlier in this campaign, we had the opportunity to speak for slightly under an hour and it was pleasure to hear her wry sense of humor and her candor about policy and political gossip. That’s why when I first learned about this ethics situation that she was involved in, my first inclination was to come to her defense and remained skeptical about this incident until what she did really sunk in.
The entire report from the Senate Legislative Ethics Board is here. It is a finding of fact that Senator Rivers made this request, see Finding of Fact #22 of the report. The “solve a number of problems for both us” line appears to be vague enough for the ethics board to relent, but the voters should make their own judgement about what that means in a conversation between a businessman and a powerful politician.
That aside, from this fact, one could also think that this was about subverting the contribution limits for individuals to Legislative Candidates, which would be illegal
. It is hard to understand why the Legislative Ethics Board didn’t include violations of RCW 42.17A.270 – Earmarked Contributions in their investigation. I am reminded of a old joke about drunks and street lights.
I suppose that when the Senate Legislative Ethics Board dismissed the case, many other politicians breathed a sigh of relief, maybe thinking, “but for the grace of God, there go I.” Senator Rivers may not be a particularly bad actor. Perhaps, she has just adapted to the system as it is. It’s the system of having to raise money from corporations in order to pay for media to win elections. I really don’t hate the player, I hate the game.
But we need to ask ourselves whether we are going to give this a pass. Because if Senator Rivers can do this brazenly, in broad daylight, and be RE-ELECTED, then what do these laws and limits matter for any powerful Senator. What’s the next set of rules that can be broken publicly without consequences. More importantly, what does this say about us.
The Legislative Ethics Board has dismissed the complaint and the major newspapers have not covered this in any depth. This is 2020 and there are no guardrails anymore. There is nobody coming to stop this. The voter is the last line of law enforcement here. If you have a ballot, then this is up to you.