By Jami Makan
State senator Doug Ericksen (R-Whatcom County) has registered as a foreign agent for the kingdom of Cambodia. According to media reports, Ericksen created a company that has secured a $500,000 lobbying contract from the Cambodian government.
Ericksen praised the Cambodian government last year during a controversial visit as an election observer.
In an April 3 filing with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Ericksen, along with former state representative Jay Rodne (R-Snoqualmie), registered as a foreign agent through a corporate entity called PacRim Bridges LLC.
The Washington Secretary of State department lists Ericksen and Rodne as the sole principals of the firm, which was incorporated on November 28, 2017.
The contract with Cambodia was first reported by Politico on April 5. Politico reported that Ericksen and Rodne will meet “with U.S. officials, elected [officials] at both the federal and state levels, and administrative officials to promote improved relations between the U.S.A. and the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
According to the DOJ filing, their work will include arranging “visits by Cambodian officials to the U.S. and visits by U.S. officials to Cambodia” as well as setting up meetings with American business leaders.
The contract was signed on March 25 and is worth $500,000 a year.
In an interview with the Seattle Times, Ericksen said that the arrangement is “one hundred percent legal” and noted that state legislators serve part-time and are expected to have outside jobs. “I am just trying to make my way in this world,” he told the newspaper.
The 2018 Cambodian general election was condemned by international rights groups, as a result of the dissolution of the main opposition party and a crackdown on the press by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“Although voting day was peaceful, the overarching dynamic of the elections were unfair, with unequal media access for opposition parties, bias toward the CPP in electoral institutions, and lack of independent and impartial dispute resolution mechanisms,” read a report from Human Rights Watch.
The White House also criticized the Cambodian election. In a statement issued on July 29 last year, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated: “The United States regrets that Cambodia’s July 29 parliamentary elections were neither free nor fair and failed to represent the will of the Cambodian people.”
However, Ericksen had praised the election as “very free” and “very fair,” according to the Seattle Times, which noted that “the visit by Washington state lawmakers to Cambodia has raised questions about whether they were being used to legitimize an authoritarian government’s false elections.”
Requests for comment to senator Ericksen’s office were not answered by press time.