OLYMPIA – Republican Secretary of State Kim Wyman on Friday defended her closed-door meetings with lobbying groups earlier this year after a report was published about her attendance, and she dismissed criticism from her Democratic opponent that she was susceptible to special interest influence on Washington state’s ballot initiative process.
Wyman’s participation in a May meeting in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Republican Secretaries of State Committee, was described Friday in a story by the New York Times that also mentioned a handful of other Republican secretaries of state.
Public records obtained by the Times show a May 3 meeting between Wyman and the secretaries of state of Colorado and Ohio with the National Restaurant Association, facilitated by the secretaries of state group. Wyman also was part of a meeting with the National Rifle Association, though documents show they were interested in ballot measures in California, Maine and Nevada.
The restaurant group wanted to discuss proposed minimum wage initiatives in the three states. Wyman said she met with the groups only to explain the initiative process in Washington state. Wyman said she did not attend a hunting lodge event mentioned in the article.
“I was invited to join some other Republican secretaries of state to meet with these groups,” she said. “I was bringing the perspective of how the initiative and referendum process works in Washington. I would meet with any group that asked me to do this.”
But her Democratic opponent, Tina Podlodowski, argued it was improper for Wyman to meet with the groups, especially considering some of the briefing papers cited in the article noted donations made from the groups to the Republican Secretaries of State Committee and other Republican groups. Podlodowski made the claims at a news conference Friday, joined by union groups that support the minimum wage raise initiative that voters will decide on next week.
“This is the appearance of undue influence on those measures and she needs to answer some really hard questions,” Podlodowski said. “There’s an appearance of impropriety here. That’s all I can say.”
The Times story said secretaries of state “frequently help” write the ballot title and summaries for initiatives, but in Washington state that is not the case. The attorney general’s office – currently headed by Democrat Bob Ferguson – is tasked with writing them.
Wyman, who is seeking her second term, is currently the lone statewide elected Republican in Washington state and the entire West Coast.
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