State legislators’ financial disclosures fall short

The Seattle TimesFebruary 22, 2014 

The website of the state Public Disclosure Commission.

HTTP://WWW.PDC.WA.GOV/

Every year, state legislators and other public officials in Washington must file paperwork revealing details of their personal finances, including income, debts, investments and meals or trips paid for by lobbyists.

It’s a system that’s supposed to promote government transparency, especially for lawmakers who hold second jobs or have other entanglements that could pose conflicts of interest.

But the public rarely sees the information.

Unlike most data collected by the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) -- such as information on who’s donating to political campaigns -- the personal financial-affairs statements are not posted online.

Although Washington frequently gets high marks from national open-government groups, this is one area where the state is lagging, some experts say.

There are other flaws in Washington’s financial-disclosure system that leave holes in the public’s understanding of the financial affairs of their elected officials.

The PDC -- a small agency that has had a quarter of its budget and staff cut since 2009 -- does not regularly scrutinize the accuracy of the financial information submitted by elected officials.

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