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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: It’ll take a serious bout of ethics for legislators to lose their lunches

Doug Clark
Doug Clark

Washington lawmakers have decided that there really is such thing as a free lunch – as long as they don’t gobble more than a dozen of them per annum.

This shocker of a ruling came this week from the Legislative Ethics Board, which, I believe, is part of Olympia’s larger Office of Contradictions in Terms.

I’m guessing the public’s reaction to this “free-meals limit” will be the way it is for most outrageous news from the Capitol.

You know, liquids like hot coffee snorted out of nostrils along with angry exclamations like …

“Ethics! Those lawmakers wouldn’t know ($#!!)ing ethics if it bit ’em on the ($#%&)!!”

I’m dreaming, of course.

We civilians are all so numb to political shenanigans that nobody ever reacts to anything anymore.

Just once I’d like to see some honesty, you know, where this Ethics/Schmethics Board would come clean in a letter to every taxpayer.

Ah, I can see it now …

“Dear Washington Sheeple,

“You may have heard that the Board has determined that dining on a lobbyist’s dime is NOT wrong as long as a lawmaker shows some reasonable self-control.

“We know. It’s sounds as if we’re joking, huh?

“Well, we weren’t.

“We reached this conclusion after trying for months to redefine terms like ‘slightly compromised,’ ‘barely corrupt’ and ‘partially pregnant.’

“After that, we wasted a lot of time trying to determine if a meal was a breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or a breakfast, lunch or all-you-can-eat rib night.

“Or three sides of near-priceless imported beef delivered to a legislator’s back door by representatives from the Wagyu Meat Lobby.

“Speaking of which, the board would like to thank the Washington Wine Lobby for sending over all those cases of late-harvest Riesling for our meetings.

“Similarly, kudos to the Washington Cold Cuts Lobby and the Chilled Fresh Seafood Lobby. (Those prosciutto-wrapped scallops, by the way, were to die for.)

“Refreshments aside, however, our board discussions bogged down when we began to study the word ‘infrequent,’ which is not defined in Washington law.

“It helped some when we put it in a thought problem that we could all relate to.


“Giles Unguent is a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.

“Joe Skeez, senator from Humptulips, has expressed his indecision regarding his crucial upcoming vote on a major drug bill.

“Is it therefore ethically OK for these two to be seen sharing a lunch so close to the vote, especially if Giles picks up the tab and then leaves an ‘infrequent’ new Rolex President on the table while disappearing to pay?

“Not able to decide on an answer, the board set the Rolex matter aside and told some jokes for a while, like …

“Q – What’s the difference between a congressman and a call girl?

“A – The congressman’s usually wearing the sexier lingerie.

“After all the laughter died down, we Ethics Board members decided that, beginning Jan. 1, lawmakers can accept no more than 12 free meals during a year.

“Oh, we almost forgot.

“Nobody will be keeping track, which means that legislators, unless they change the law (har!), will be on the Honor System.

“We’re really sorry.


“The Ethics/Schmethics Board.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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