OLYMPIA – Starting Monday, Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna’s ability to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign comes to an end for the next few months because of a voter-approved law that doesn’t allow elected state officials to fundraise during legislative sessions.
His Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, doesn’t face any similar restrictions under state law, something one Republican state representative wants to change.
Rep. Bill Hinkle, of Cle Elum, said he will introduce a bill Monday, the first day of the legislative special session, called the Campaign Financing Fairness Act. It would require federal officials running for statewide office to be subject to the same fundraising freeze as state officials.
“He’s clearly got an unfair advantage,” Hinkle said Friday, referring to Inslee. “The same reason we don’t let lawmakers raise money during session should apply to the guy in federal office as well.”
Required by the voter-approved Initiative 134, the freeze prohibits lawmakers from accepting campaign contributions during a period extending from one month before to the end of the regular legislative session. They also can’t raise money during special legislative sessions. Members of Congress are covered by federal law and not subject to the state law.
I-134 was sponsored by then Sen. Linda Smith, a Republican from Vancouver who later was elected to Congress. It was approved in 1992 by more than 70 percent of voters.
Several elements of the campaign finance initiative have since been overturned by the courts or changed by lawmakers, including the removal of a requirement that the fundraising freeze continue a month after session ends. But the rest of the freeze aspect of the law, designed to diminish the chances of vote-buying or the appearance of it during legislative sessions, remains.
“I think the whole idea of this is to make sure people don’t unfairly use their incumbency,” Hinkle said.
He said that the fact a federal official can use their high-profile position to continue to raise money “is a stark example of the unfairness of the election law.”
The regular legislative session begins Jan. 9 and runs for 60 days, which means McKenna would be prevented from raising money until the second week of March; a special session would extend the period.