OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission has found the Labor Education and Research Center – a taxpayer-funded labor research and activism facility that operates in close cooperation with the Washington State Labor Council – systematically violated state regulations in 2013 and 2014 by failing to disclose the time and resources used by its director to lobby the Legislature for an even bigger share of the state budget.
The ruling, issued on Dec. 17, was the result of a complaint filed by the Freedom Foundation in January 2015 and further compounded LERC’s troubled history.
The PDC director imposed a moderate fine but suspended the penalty based on LERC’s promise to improve its reporting practices. A second Freedom Foundation complaint against LERC with the Executive Ethics Board is still pending.
That complaint will likely be heard in January.
“We believe the penalty should have been greater considering the contempt for the law it indicates,” said Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe. “Nonetheless, we’re gratified the PDC recognized and condemned LERC’s lawbreaking.”
From 2007 to 2010, LERC was operated by The Evergreen State College in Olympia. In 2008, the program lost half its funding after an Evergreen audit uncovered questionable financial practices and, in 2010, it was moved to the South Seattle Community College-Georgetown campus.
From September 2013 to January 2014, the program’s director, Sarah Laslett, admitted she had in-person contacts with several state legislators for more than four days but failed to disclose those meetings.
The purpose of those meetings was to encourage lawmakers to increase LERC’s funding, which qualified her activities as lobbying under state law.
The Seattle College District subsequently filed a report, but it was turned in nearly a year and a half after the fact – and only in response to the Freedom Foundation’s complaint.
Laslett has since left LERC to take another job out of state.
Though LERC’s attempts to get the Legislature to substantially boost its funding in 2015 failed, LERC continues to receive $162,000 in state funds.
“Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a program that does little more than support Big Labor’s special interests,” McCabe said. “LERC is nothing but a public kickback to the labor leaders who fund liberal politicians in this state.
“The program should be eliminated,” he said, “but failing that, it at least needs to be watched very carefully and called on the carpet when it breaks the law.”
The PDC ruling is linked here.
The Freedom Foundation is a member-supported, Northwest-based think tank promoting individual liberty, free enterprise and limited, accountable government.