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State Legislators Under Investigation

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An ethics board in the Legislature is collecting information on how often five lawmakers accepted free meals from lobbyists.

Mike O’Connell with the Legislative Ethics Board said Tuesday the board may consider the issue in September. He says the board has a range of options, including issuing fines, admonishments or updated guidance.

The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed after The Associated Press and a consortium of public radio stations found that the state’s 50 most active lobbyists pampered legislators with $65,000 in free meals in the first four months of this year. Washington ethics law prohibits public officials from accepting free meals on more than “infrequent occasions.”

The ethics complaint focused on the top five recipients identified by reporters: Republican Sens. Doug Ericksen of Ferndale, Steve Litzow of Mercer Island, Joe Fain of Auburn, Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla and Mark Schoesler of Ritzville.

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