Van Werven violates campaign ethics law

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Washington state’s Legislative Ethics Board publicly announced September 24 that Luanne Van Werven, 42nd Legislative District representative running for re-election, violated the Washington Ethics in Public Service Act by filming a campaign speech in her Olympia office earlier this year.

The video violated Washington state law that prohibits the use of public resources for political campaigns.

A Bellingham resident in the 40th Legislative District filed a complaint to the ethics board on June 9. The complainant was concerned that Van Werven taped a welcome speech for a February 28 Whatcom County Republican Party email reminding voters of the March 1 county caucus in her office, according to the board’s written opinion. In the video, Van Werven asked people to vote for her and Jennifer Sefzik, a Republican running for 42nd Legislative District Position 2. Van Werven said she emailed her legislative colleagues after the opinion was made public on September 24 accepting the decision of the board.

“I accept the decision of the board and I own my mistake of using my office to record a greeting for Whatcom County residents in advance of the presidential caucus,” Van Werven said. “I appreciate the accountability the legislative ethics board provides us as legislators and I apologize for my inadvertent action, and it will not happen again.”

Van Werven said she was not aware of the violation or she would have never filmed the video in her office.

“I never thought standing alone in my office in Olympia was a violation but, after the fact, I realized it was,” she said. “That’s why I accept the decision of the board.”

In the opinion, Van Werven said she was asked to welcome the caucus but was unable to attend the event. The representative tried to film the video on the steps of the Capitol but it was too public so she went to her office and used her cell phone.

The violation was discussed at the board’s August 3 and August 31 meetings but Van Werven, a former member of the board, did not participate in the board’s decision.

Van Werven said she voluntarily resigned September 24 from the ethics board, on which she served with one House Democrat and one senator from each party. She will pay a $300 fine but half the fine will be suspended if she doesn’t have another ethics violation through
August 2025.

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