Attorney General Seeks One Year ‘Cool-Off’ Period for Lobbying By Former Legislators
Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pushing for a law that we think makes a lot of sense.
Ferguson is asking for legislators to sponsor a bill that would require a one year 'cool-off' period for any former high-ranking state officials. It would require any former legislator or person who's held a high-ranking office to wait at least one year before going to work as a political lobbyist.
While Congress and 31 other states have such laws, Washington does not. Under current law, a former Representative, Senator, or for example, Department of Transportation or Health Care official could leave their job on a Friday, and return Monday to start trying to influence their former colleagues.
The law would also require such former officials to register and disclose their source of employment after leaving state service.
According to Ferguson's office:
"In 2015, Washington received a D+ for government accountability from the Center for Public Integrity on its annual scorecard assessing our rules governing disclosure, accountability and influence peddling. While Washington ranked better than most states (coming in 8th overall), a key factor in Washington’s low grade is the lack of a “cooling off” period before public officials can lobby their former co-workers. The Center described this revolving door as a “big ethical loophole” in Washington. "
Ferguson, and the legislators who support his idea, say in recent years public mistrust has grown over former political leaders who turn around and try to influence their former colleagues in a wide variety of political issues. This law would help prevent that from happening.
A similar bill was introduced in the state House last year, but failed to pass and make it on to the Senate.
Studies have shown officials who are forced to sit out at least a year, are far less likely to end up in compromising positions when it comes to lobbying and attempting to influence political outcomes.