Donate to sick lawmakers? Limits apply to some gifts

Staff writerApril 19, 2013 

Legislative lawyers are advising ailing lawmakers to take no more than $50 from people offering to help with medical expenses — with some big exceptions — to stay in line with ethics laws.

That’s what the Legislative Ethics Board was told at its meeting today. Sen. Mike Carrell and Reps. Roger Freeman and Richard DeBolt are dealing with major illnesses, and the lawyers have received questions about medical expense funds.

Carrell’s friends have raised at least $11,976 for him. Insurance is covering much of his actual treatment for a blood condition but the gifts are intended to help with related expenses. Legislators and staff are invited to a silent auction and bake sale Wednesday on the Capitol campus that is expected to add to the total by auctioning off Mariners tickets, cords of wood, beach vacations, professional photo shoots and more.

That’s where the exceptions come in. One group that doesn’t have to limit gifts to $50 under ethics laws is state employees, including fellow legislators and staff. What’s more, the limits don’t apply to people whose gifts can be seen as part of their relationship with the legislator outside the legislative process, House counsel Tim Sekerak said. That means friends, co-workers, members of a church — likely most of the people who would want to donate — are exempt.

So the restrictions mostly apply to lobbyists and others who could be seen as benefiting from what the Legislature does.

So far, Sekerak said: “The public’s and the third house’s (lobbyist) support has been within appropriate limits as far as we can tell.”

Lawyers are also urging donations to be made anonymously when possible to avoid the appearance of favors, he said.

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