Washington state senators tap surplus campaign money for food, clothes, furnishing

Since the election, state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has spent thousands of dollars in surplus campaign money for travel, and lodging and meals in Washington, D.C. Other lawmakers have tapped such funds as well.

OLYMPIA — More than $2,000 at an Embassy Suites in Washington, D.C. Nearly $110 at a Hard Rock Cafe adjacent to Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was shot. Another $52 at Elephant & Castle, a restaurant just blocks from the White House.

In recent months, state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has spent thousands of dollars in surplus election-campaign money to pay for airfare, as well as lodging and meals in Washington, D.C., where he also works for the Trump administration.

Ericksen, who took a job in January with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the nation’s capital, is one of more than a dozen lawmakers to use the little-scrutinized surplus campaign accounts in recent months, according to a review of state records by Northwest News Network and The Seattle Times.

Campaign finance rules govern how lawmakers can use unspent donations once an election is over. Among the options, they can hold the money for a future campaign, donate it to political parties or charities, or use it to cover unreimbursed expenses related to their duties as elected officials.

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State Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, bought nearly $1,300 worth of suits and ties with surplus funds, while state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, spent more than $1,200 on airfare to his home district. Two other GOP senators have spent thousands of dollars in surplus funds to furnish their offices in Olympia.

Ericksen’s surplus spending may be fine, depending on what he was doing in D.C., said Evelyn Fielding Lopez, executive director of the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), which oversees the state’s campaign finance regulations.

If the senator traveled to meet state officials or…

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