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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: What’s the infrequency, Kenneth?

OLYMPIA – The biggest challenge for this period between sessions – or at least the biggest one after convincing the state Supreme Court not to witch slap the Legislature for ignoring a fairly plain order on school funding – may be to define the word “infrequent.”

As in “legislators may accept complimentary legislative business meals on infrequent occasions”, which is what their Ethics Code says.

The problem is somewhat akin to the medieval debate of how many angels can fit on the point of a needle. . . 

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. . . Great minds of the Middle Ages concluded a whole bunch of angels; some legislators have apparently adopted a similar view of what constitutes infrequent freebie meals from lobbyists.

The Legislative Ethics Board had defining infrequent on last week’s agenda but came to no conclusions. One suggestion was that once a week would be infrequent, anything more would not.

This might be a reasonable definition as long as those legislators who apparently are starved for company and nourishment don’t take convert that standard into a punch card with 52 circles, to be used at any point during the year. In a 60-day session, that would allow them to dine on someone else’s dime for all but eight of the days between the first and last gavel, or double up some days with a lunch and a dinner, or even two dinners.

As Rep. Matt Manweller observed at last week’s meeting, he sometimes gets invited to as many as four dinners in a night. His concern is not being influenced, but “that I’m going to get fat.”

Perhaps a simple way to alleviate concerns about influence peddling and increased body fat would be to come up with an easier word to define: No, as in “accept complimentary meals…on NO occasions.”

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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