Defense fund bill was not designed to assist Owen

OlympiaApril 4, 2014 

The Olympian’s editorial criticizing Lt. Gov. Brad Owen for supporting legislation to allow elected officials to have legal defense funds, was off-base in several respects.

The editorial noted that Owen denied allegations made against him and felt they were politically motivated. The editorial then says that the Executive Ethics Board thinks otherwise. However, the Executive Ethics Board has not made any decision on the matter. That is why it is holding hearings.

The editorial suggested legal defense fund legislation was specifically designed for Owen. However, the original idea of authorizing and reporting contributions to a public official’s legal defense fund, was proposed by the Public Disclosure Commission. Bills were introduced, at the commission’s request, during the 2012 legislative session.

Why would the Public Disclosure Commission have proposed legislation allowing public officials to establish legal defense funds? Because that was recommended by a working group that included the Public Disclosure Commission, Legislative Ethics Board, Executive Ethics Board and the Commission for Judicial Conduct.

So, instead of a bill designed specifically to assist Owen, a bill was originally proposed by the Public Disclosure Commission, two years ago. The bill recognized the special risks encountered by people who enter public service.

Nothing Owen is alleged to have done would have been illegal for a private citizen. Elected officials should be entitled to a defense from the special risks of public service.

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