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Sandy Robson files PDC complaint on Doug Ericksen

Publisher note: Below is reprinted the press release from Sandy Robson. It was posted on Dena Jensen’s Noisy Waters Northwest blog earlier today, at Noisy Waters Northwest - John Servais

Formal PDC complaint filed regarding Republican Senator Douglas Ericksen’s Surplus Account spending

(Blaine, Wa.) March 6, 2018 - Today, Sandy Robson, a Whatcom County-based investigative writer, sent a formal complaint to the Washington state Public Disclosure Commission, alleging that Senator Douglas Ericksen (R-Ferndale), committed multiple violations of Washington state campaign finance law and rules in 2016 and 2017.

The complaint was filed after an extensive review of Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) Cash Receipts and Expenditure reports filed by Senator Ericksen’s “Douglas J. Ericksen (Committee to Elect Doug Ericksen Surplus Account),” and of FOIA records recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Using surplus funds for expenses related to obtaining and/or maintaining personal employment with the EPA would not be considered an appropriate use of those surplus funds. Cash Receipts and Expenditure reports filed with the PDC by Senator Ericksen’s “Douglas J. Ericksen (Committee to Elect Doug Ericksen Surplus Account)” indicate that in November 2017, there were listed expenses totaling over $1,300 for Washington D.C. travel-related expenses. The expenses appear to be related to Ericksen’s meeting/s with EPA and/or White House officials to discuss and procure potential personal employment with the EPA. This would not likely be considered a legitimate public office-related activity.

According to the PDC website, if an elected official were to incur a non-reimbursed public office-related expense that also, in any manner, could be considered personal in nature, the agency recommends paying the expenditure with personal funds, and then seeking reimbursement from a surplus funds account only for that specific portion that is directly related to his or her elected office. The complaint outlines how that does not appear to be the regular practice exercised by Senator Ericksen in utilizing his surplus account funds.

EPA email communications obtained through FOIA records indicate that Ericksen met with EPA and/or White House officials on or around November 14, 2017, and discussed potential employment with the EPA, which resulted in Ericksen receiving an offer for an appointed position as Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, to the Regional Administrator in the EPA’s Region 10 office in Seattle, Washington. According to a December 4, 2017, EPA email communication, Ericksen’s offered salary for the appointed position was $133,096 per year.

Email records further indicate that Ericksen was originally slated to start his appointment as early as December 4, 2017, contingent upon him receiving clearance from the Office of Personnel Management in time for that start date, which did not seem to have occurred in time. Email records show that Ericksen’s start date was then moved to December 18, 2017, and on that date, it was again pushed back, this time by Ericksen, to January 8, 2018. Eventually, on January 5, 2018, Ericksen sent an email to EPA Regional Administrator for the Region 10 office, letting him know that he would not be joining the EPA after all. There are details about additional EPA email communications relating to Ericksen’s recent potential EPA employment contained in

Robson’s formal complaint.

Referenced in the complaint, the review of Cash Receipts and Expenditure reports filed with the PDC by Senator Ericksen’s “Douglas J. Ericksen (Committee to Elect Doug Ericksen Surplus Account)” indicate that in the months of January, March, and May of 2017, there were listed expenses totaling over $2,500 for Washington D.C. travel-related expenses. The expenses appear to be related to the performance of Ericksen’s then-appointed Temporary Transitional Schedule C position as Senior Advisor at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. That appointment was effective on January 21, 2017, and ended on May 20, 2017.

During that temporary 120-day appointment, Ericksen worked full-time hours in his EPA position which had an associated yearly salary of $161,900, while he simultaneously continued to serve as a state senator in the Washington state Legislature.

PDC Cash Receipts and Expenditure reports filed for Senator Ericksen’s surplus account for December and November in 2016, also show Washington, D.C. travel-related expenses which may have been associated with Ericksen’s upcoming (at that time) January 21, 2017, appointment with the EPA.

As a result from news media articles in April and May of 2017, about his use of surplus funds for travel to Washington, D.C., in 2017, Senator Ericksen claimed that he sometimes travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with legislators as part of his elected position as senator. The complainant, Robson, reviewed all of Senator Ericksen’s Cash Receipts and Expenditure reports filed with the PDC for the last six years; 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

According to Robson’s review of those reports from last six years, there did not appear to be any listed expenditures from Senator Ericksen’s surplus account which indicate he traveled to Washington, D.C., any times other than in December 2016, January 2017, March 2017, May 2017, and November 2017, all of which, occurred during the same time he appeared to either be meeting with EPA and/or White House officials about potential employment with the EPA, or occurred during the time that he was employed with the EPA.

Robson calls on the PDC and/or the Attorney General of Washington state, to investigate Senator Ericksen’s surplus account spending for the months referenced in the complaint.

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Comments by Readers

Michael Riordan

Mar 07, 2018

Elisabeth Britt and I have recently been reviewing most of the documents that Sandy Robson cites in contemplation of possible NW Citizen articles and PDC complaints regarding Doug Ericksen’s improper or potentially illegal use of surplus campaign funds. Although we have a somewhat different perspective on his activities in The Other Washington, we find that Sandy’s interpretation of these documents is accurate and highly credible.

We’ve been scooped! Congratulations, Sandy, on another great feat of gumshoe work.

Most revealing to me are the November 14, 2017, emails from Nancy Grantham—with whom Doug had worked earlier in 2017 in connection with his temporary EPA job—indicating that by then he ALREADY HAD at least an informal, more permanent  job offer at the EPA Region 10 Office in Seattle. This was well before the new Regional Administrator Chris Hladick of Alaska was due to step in, on December 4. This confirms what I had learned from reliable sources within that office, that Doug had not been selected by Chris but instead been IMPOSED ON the office by Trump regime (I hesitate to use the word “administration”) officials in DC. These were probably loyal allies and cronies that Doug had cultivated at the EPA and possibly even the White House during his earlier visits that year.  That would not be a legitimate use of surplus campaign funds.

By my estimates, the November 20, 2017 payment to Embassy Suites of $846 (see above illustration of Doug’s PDC form for that month) corresponds to a five- or six-night stay, and the $54 at Lot M parking at SeaTac that same day to a similar length of time.

Thus it seems that our spendthrifty senator, chagrined by the November 8 special election of Democrat Manka Dhingra to the 45th district senate seat and the consequent loss of his potent majority status in the senate (including his powerful chairmanship of the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee) became determined to seek gainful and lucrative employment in the Trump regime. Two days later he purchased an Alaska Airlines ticket to Reagan Airport. And less than a week later, he had his coveted plum!

And he paid for this mid-November EPA job-search junket largely out of his surplus campaign funds, which as Sandy writes is not an appropriate use of those funds. My coauthor Elisabeth Britt, who worked for five years in Olympia and is familiar with the rules for use of such funds,  may want to add more on this subject.


Elisabeth Britt

Mar 07, 2018

Excellent work, Sandy. I certainly don’t mind being scooped. Sandy has just skimmed the surface of Senator Ericksen’s potential PDC violations. Granted, this is certainly one of the most flagrant examples of alleged improper expenditures. But there are many more reported expenses in Senator Ericksen’s C-4’s that require critical analysis. 

In a nutshell: what does the Public Disclosure Commission allow a candidate do with his/her surplus funds? 

1. A candidate can refund the contribution(s) to the contributor.

2. A candidate can reimburse themselves for earnings lost as a result of their campaign activities.

3. A candidate can transfer surplus funds without limit to a political party or to a caucus political committee.

4. A candidate can make a charitable donation.

5. A candidate can give a portion of the funds to the state treasurer for the state’s general fund, the oral history, state library, and archives account, or the legislative international trade account. 

6. A candidate can spend funds on non-reimbursed public office expenses if the candidate is elected. And I agree with Ms. Robson’s allegation that spending surplus campaign  funds to secure a new job in Washington D.C. is an inappropriate use of surplus campaign funds.

7. Finally, a candidate can leave the surplus funds in the campaign account for possible use in a future election campaign for the same office that the candidate was campaigning for when the contributions were received.   

Can’t wait to see the PDC’s response. 


Michael Riordan

Mar 07, 2018

Upon closer examination, a few other oddities pop out from Doug Ericksen’s PDC form (see above) and the emails turned up in a recent FOIA request  by Seattle Times reporter Jim Brunner (which can be found in Sandy Robson’s Exhibit A).

Note that he apparently spent $70 for a “meeting” at Boston’s Bellingham on November 13. If that indeed occurred, he must have taken a “red-eye” overnight flight to DC in order to be present at EPA meetings the very next day, as the Nancy Grantham emails attest. But Alaska Airlines does not offer such overnight flights, unless they can be accomplished through linking up with another airline for the final leg to DC.

Note also the additional Alaska Airline ticket for $79 plus an entry in Doug’s December 2017 C4 form claiming $174.59 for “Travel Reimbursement—Alaska Airlines.” All told, there are $635.01 in expenses related to that airline in November and December 2017. PDC examiners should request detailed receipts for all three expenses and ask Ericksen to justify why they were billed against his surplus campaign funds account.

Doug’s return date of November 20 is the Monday of Thanksgiving week, in which both House and Senate were in recess, the House since Thursday, November 16 and the Senate since that Friday. So there would not have been any WA state Representatives or Senators for Ericksen to meet with after the 17th, and most Congressional staffers would have been absent, too, returning home for the recess and holiday. Yet he apparently stayed in DC though the entire weekend. On WA state business? That’s pretty hard to stomach. What was Doug up to?

Finally, the annual salary Ericksen apparently accepted, $133,096 (GS-15, step 2), was significantly less than the approximately $161,000 rate (GS-15, step 10) he was being paid for his work on the EPA “beachhead” team earlier in 2017, even though the nature of the work involved—in both cases public communications—was quite similar. This curious discrepancy suggests that he was vastly overpaid for his EPA work from January 23 to May 20, 2017.

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