Case #33194
Respondent name: Doug Ericksen
Complainant name: Sandra Robson

A complaint was filed alleging that Doug Ericksen, an incumbent Washington State Senator from the 42nd Legislative District, may have violated Chapter 42.17A.430 by making prohibited expenditures from the Doug Ericksen Surplus Funds Account.  

Specifically, the complaint alleged the Doug Ericksen Surplus Funds Account made unauthorized surplus fund expenditures to travel to Washington DC, in part to procure employment in the Trump Administration in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  RCW 42.17A.430(7) allows an official to “hold the surplus campaign funds in a separate account for non-reimbursed public office-related expenses”, but not for personal uses.

During the 2016 election, Senator Ericksen served as Washington State Co-Chair for the Donald Trump for President Campaign.  Senator Ericksen traveled to Washington, DC during 2017 on multiple occasions, including trips in January 2017 and November 2017.  Senator Ericksen was appointed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to a Senior Advisory position effective January 21, 2017. That appointment ended 120 days later, on May 20, 2017.  Shortly after a November 2017 trip to Washington, DC, Senator Ericksen was offered a similar position by the EPA, to be effective December 17, 2017. In January 2018, he declined that position.

PDC staff found no evidence of a material violation that would require conducting a more formal investigation into the complaint or pursuing enforcement action in this instance.  Staff found that the surplus fund expenditures identified in the complaint included activities and related travel for meetings with members of Congress and congressional staffers that reasonably relate to the Senator’s official office.

Senator Ericksen, however, also personally benefited from the activities and travel based on his actual or contemplated job appointments with the EPA.  During his trips to Washington, DC, Senator Ericksen attended EPA orientation and training, and met with EPA officials. Staff found that a potential conflict of interest exists where, as in this instance, Senator Ericksen used surplus funds to pay for a portion of his travel to Washington, DC in his official capacity as a State Senator, but at the same time benefited from that travel based on his January 2017 appointment with the EPA and a separate appointment he was contemplating in or around November 2017. Compounding the issue, insufficient record-keeping by the Surplus Funds Account regarding these trips makes it difficult to apportion the expenses appropriately

There are, however, mitigating factors in this specific instance that renders this conduct to be a minor violation of RCW 42.17A, including that: (1) Senator Ericksen appears to have used personal funds to pay for a portion of the trips taken to Washington, DC, and thus not all of the travel costs were paid using the Doug Ericksen Surplus Funds Account; (2) Senator Ericksen appears to have conducted official Washington state business during his trips to the District of Columbia; and (3) the surplus funds expenditures involved relatively small dollar amounts. 

To resolve this violation, pursuant to WAC 390-37-060(1)(d), Senator Ericksen received a formal written warning concerning the prohibition of making expenditures using surplus funds that have a personal use component, and the requirement that he maintain the books of account, including the invoices and receipts for surplus funds expenditures made by the Doug Ericksen Surplus Funds Account in accordance with RCW 42.17A.  Senator Ericksen will be informed that the Commission will consider the formal written warning in deciding on further Commission action, should there be future violations of PDC laws or rules.

The PDC dismissed the complaint in accordance with RCW 42.17A.755(1).  A copy of the Report of Investigation is attached below.

Disposition: Case Closed with Written Warning (Resolved 07/20/2020)
Date opened: 03/26/2018
Area of Law: RCW 42.17A.430, RCW 42.17A.445, RCW.42.17A.240, WAC 390-16-037, WAC 390-16-238

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