Topic: Open Government (242)

Doug Ericksen’s DC Haunts

In early March Sandy Robson filed a complaint with the Washington state Pubic Disclosure Commission, and Northwest Citizen published her press release summarizing Sen. Doug Ericksen’s inappropriate and possibly illegal expenditures of surplus campaign funds. In all, he spent over $5,000 from this slush fund between November 2016 and December 2017 for activities that appear tangential to official state business and seem much more relevant to his well-known search for a highly paid job in the Trump regime. Here I track the most egregious of these expenditures, following his movements around Washington, DC.

Ericksen spent most of that sum—a total of $2,930.20—at the Embassy Suites hotel, a 14-story red-brick building (see photo below) on the corner of 10th and K Streets, near the Washington Convention Center. Of course the proximity to K Street, famously recognized as the address of powerful lobbying firms, likely did not go unnoticed.

On November 20, 2017, Ericksen paid a $845.70 bill for what must have been a five-or six-night stay, given that he had met with public-affairs officer Nancy Grantham at the Environmental Protection Agency on November 14, according to her email of that date acknowledging his appointment to a job in the EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle.

The Embassy Suites hotel on 10th and K Streets in Downtown Washingtonm, DC.
The Embassy Suites hotel on 10th and K Streets in downtown Washington, DC.

What’s curious is that he hung around DC for another six days—including through the following weekend, after the House and Senate had recessed for a long week over the Thanksgiving holidays. The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) should ask Doug what Washington state business he might have been doing after the 14th, since he then had an offer of a permanent EPA position; accepting that job would necessarily require that he step down as state senator (he subsequently turned the job down on January 5, 2018).

But that hotel bill pales in comparison to the $2,084.50 that Ericksen dropped at Embassy Suites for four or five nights during the inauguration weekend ending on Monday, January 23, 2017—his first day as a member of the “beachhead” transition team then trying to seize the reins at the agency. Either the per-night room rate was much higher that weekend, or the liquor flowed liberally in his suite. Or both. It must have been an irresistible opportunity to celebrate with like-minded Trump campaigners from around the nation and establish alliances in the nascent administration.

From December 2016 to May 2017, Ericksen shelled out another $335.85 of his surplus campaign funds for food and drink at downtown Washington pubs and eateries, almost all within walking distance of the EPA headquarters at 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue. For example, on March 16 he plunked down $52.20 at the Elephant and Castle right across the avenue, no doubt a favorite GOP watering hole like the one I often passed by in that vicinity when I worked in DC during the 1990s. And on May 15, during his final week on the EPA beachhead team, he dropped another $100 at BLT Prime, a sumptuous restaurant inside the lavish Trump International Hotel just across 12th Street (see photo at top). I wonder whether any official Washington state business was discussed during these meals. If not, these were inappropriate expenditures.

Washington headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Washington headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Finally, Ericksen spent a total of $1,487.85 on air fares between November 2016 and December 2017, mostly with Alaska Airlines. There were flights booked and paid for in November and December 2016, and in March and November 2017. (For example, on November 10, 2017, just two days after the special election of Manka Dhingra to be the senator from the 45th district gave control of the Senate to the Democrats, Ericksen paid $381.42 for an Alaska Airlines ticket—presumably to Washington. DC, as he was there the very next week.) How much of this total went for official state business? And how much for Ericksen’s personal job search? The PDC should ask him for invoices and documents substantiating these expenditures.

Sandy Robson obviously had good reason to question Doug Ericksen’s use of his surplus campaign funds to pay for these expenses. Along with her, I hope the Public Disclosure Commission takes this complaint seriously and demands from him a thorough, well-documented accounting of these expenditures.

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About Michael Riordan

Posting Citizen Journalist • Eastsound, WA • Member since Nov 25, 2016

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