Where’s the double-take at Esser’s double-dipping?

It was only Luke Esser’s first official day as Washington State Republican Party chair, and he still found time to stop by and chat with Seattle Times reporter David Postman. What a media friendly guy.

Luke Esser stopped by the office in Olympia today. He was here visiting the House and Senate Republican caucuses on his first day as chairman of the party. He is also still working for Attorney General Rob McKenna, but will be phasing out of that job over the next couple of weeks.

Um… am I missing something here? Is Esser on the state payroll and visiting caucuses and reporters in his official capacity as WSRP chair? Is this ethically kosher? Is it even legal?

That’s the very legitimate question raised by Particle Man over on Washblog, but which doesn’t seem to have piqued the interest of any of our friends in the capitol press corps. Far from being in Olympia to visit caucuses and reporters, you’d think Esser might be there earning the $84,000 a year salary state taxpayers pay him for whatever he does in the Attorney General’s office. And you’d think maybe that chatting up Postman about party business while on the taxpayers’ dime might raise a few eyebrows, if not some sort of ethics complaint.

Of course, don’t expect any sort of investigation from State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who has long been Esser’s patron, political and otherwise. It was McKenna who maneuvered to remove Diane Tebelius as WSRP chair, and McKenna who championed Esser for the post. It is also McKenna who has been Esser’s longtime employer, giving him taxpayer funded jobs first with the King County Council, and then with state AG’s office. Sweet.

RCW 42.17.128 specifically prohibits using public funds for political purposes, and RCW 42.17.130 prohibits using “public office or agency facilities” in political campaigns, defining such as including the “use of employees of the office or agency during work hours.”

So I called Esser and asked him if he took Monday off, and he said no, but that he did take off some “personal hours” that day to conduct party business. Hmm. I have no reason to doubt Esser, and assume that if somebody were to request documentation there must be some kind of time card or something… dated prior to our 11AM, 2/1/2007 conversation.

But that’s really beside the point. Esser is now the WSRP chair, a full-time political job, and as such it is totally inappropriate for him to continue to collect a state paycheck. I know it is customary to give your old employer at least two-weeks notice, but I’m pretty sure McKenna would understand… especially considering the fact that he is kinda-sorta Esser’s new employer as well.

McKenna installed his man Esser as state GOP chair, yet continues to pay him as the “Outreach Director” at his state government office — doesn’t that at the very least create a perception of impropriety? You know, enough to raise an editorial eyebrow or two?

Comments

  1. 2

    Colonel Tucker "Biff" O'hanrahanrahan spews:

    Here’s something that may get the trolls frothing: Why doesn’t the Republican Party just officially “privatize” itself? For $25 you can buy a kit and incorporate, issue stock, and just sell yourself, outright, to the highest bidder.

    Then you can just check who owns the stock to see why they are doing any particular thing at any particular time. It’s all about the dollar bill for them.

    They’d sell their own grandmother’s dentures to get a buck and then force her to give $2 blow jobs to buy new ones.

  2. 3

    YO spews:

    HEY GOLDY THE GUY HAS TO JOBS AND YOUR BUSTIN HIS BALL ALL THE WHILE YOU BEG FOR MONEY YOUR A LOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSER.GET A JOB.NOW YOU WILL REPORT THIS WINDFALL TO THE IRS RIGHT.

  3. 4

    paul spews:

    Oh, for the love of God.

    What a bunch of knitpicking bullshit.

    It’s his first day and he is in the process of phasing out of his old position.

    Had the guy quit his job on the spot, you would have been berating him for being irresponsible in not giving enough notice be fore leaving.

    Seriously, grow the fuck up and stop bothering people with real jobs.

  4. 5

    Particle Man spews:

    Goldy, thank you for this post and for making some calls.
    The text of just some of the laws in play are as follows:

    RCW 42.17.128
    Use of public funds for political purposes.

    Public funds, whether derived through taxes, fees, penalties, or any other sources, shall not be used to finance political campaigns for state or local office.

    RCW 42.17.130
    Use of public office or agency facilities in campaigns — Prohibition — Exceptions.

    No elective official nor any employee of his [or her] office nor any person appointed to or employed by any public office or agency may use or authorize the use of any of the facilities of a public office or agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of any person to any office or for the promotion of or opposition to any ballot proposition. Facilities of a public office or agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of employees of the office or agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the office or agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the office or agency.

    RCW 42.52.020
    Activities incompatible with public duties.

    No state officer or state employee may have an interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in a business or transaction or professional activity, or incur an obligation of any nature, that is in conflict with the proper discharge of the state officer’s or state employee’s official duties.

    RCW 42.52.180
    Use of public resources for political campaigns.

    (1) No state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition. Knowing acquiescence by a person with authority to direct, control, or influence the actions of the state officer or state employee using public resources in violation of this section constitutes a violation of this section. Facilities of an agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of state employees of the agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the agency.

    RCW 42.52.901
    Liberal construction.

    This chapter shall be construed liberally to effectuate its purposes and policy and to supplement existing laws as may relate to the same subject.

  5. 6

    ivan spews:

    Come on, Goldy, everybody knows that Republicans are steely-eyed men of integrity backed by a strong moral and ethical code, and only those devious nanny-state socialist collectivist limp-wristed Democrats are corrupt, or game the system. NOT!

    McKenna knows better. He gets no slack from me, only from apologists like Paul @ 4.

  6. 7

    proud leftist spews:

    Particle Man @ 5
    Thanks for the statutes. Esser’s activities plainly implicate RCW 42.52.020. He is an employee of the Office of the Attorney General, an agency which, of course, is charged with enforcing the laws of the state in a neutral and evenhanded manner. While the citizens of this state pay him, he is off performing partisan tasks for the GOP. Given that the GOP’s interests are virtually always at odds with the interests of this state, it is hard to imagine how his activities as party chair do not “conflict with the proper discharge of the state officer’s or state employee’s official duties.” He should be promptly fired from the OAG.

  7. 8

    Particle Man spews:

    Some contacts of interest:
    Executive Ethics board: Susan Harris 360 586-6759
    Rob’s chief of staff Mike Bigalo(who I understand thinks this is silly) 360 664-9081
    Luke’s direct line 360 584-3045

  8. 10

    rhp6033 spews:

    I’m still interested in Esser’s state job description. Was it published and open to all applicants, as required by law? The state is, of course, an Equal Opportunity Employer, is it not?

    Exactly what jobs was he was expected to peform, and how do we measure that performance? Since there will obviously be an opening for that position, where can we look for the public notice, so that all of us might apply?

    Or if the job just “dissapears”, does that mean that (a) he wasn’t doing anything, (b) the need for the job miraculously dissapeared within a few weeks, or (c) that the job was really a political one, and his election as head of the state Republican Party is merely a change in title, without a significant change in duties?

  9. 11

    spews:

    He needs to resign immediately. There is no wiggle room here. WingNuts only see wiggle room when someone on their side needs it.

    Mark Foley was looking for wiggle room and he got it.

    Tom DeLay used up his wiggle room.

    Now, sit back and lets watch the trolls bring up Clinton and Jefferson.

    Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

  10. 12

    Particle Man spews:

    Yup the GOP is dishing out more of the same under Rob and Luke’s “leadership”. Here is an open letter to the general, I posted over on Washblog:

    General McKenna,
    We have all been looking for action in connection with your professed goal of fighting for better “Accountability in Government.” Is this just window dressing or is there ANY substance behind all the PR? And does this AG goal only apply to the “other state agencies.”
    What about the Attorney General’s office itself Rob? Are you somehow exempt? Does looking the other way and crafting excuses about your own actions define accountability for you Rob?

    Many may not know that Luke Esser who was elected to and immediately installed as GOP State party chair last weekend (a full time $85K paid position) continues to draw a state salary and benefits in your administration. Many may not know that he was hired as an exempt appointee directly by you Rob and that he serves at your pleasure and that he is a long time friend and political ally of yours. And some may not know the details of this states ethics laws and laws pertaining to full time state employees.

    Still, with accountability in government as your big priority, I have to ask, is it all just for show. It is one thing for Luke and the GOP’s State party to show us that they still do not get that the voters are tired of their corrupt behavior but you Rob were elected with responsibilities including the enforcement of state ethics laws regardless of weather they apply to your office or your political party and friends.

    We are waiting Rob. Waiting for you to do the right thing. Clean house. As a gifted attorney I know you can conger up a bunch of thin legal justification for continuing to pay the new State GOP Chair his $84,000/year salary and benefits and allow him free parking as he works for the GOP at the capitol. After all, at least it would help the voters understand what you mean by accountability.

    We are waiting Rob. It’s day four and so far the taxpayers have paid the new state GOP chair $2,000 plus benefits under your direction.

    Respectfully Yours,
    Particle Man

  11. 13

    eponymous coward spews:

    As I said a while back, the guy to watch out for isn’t Rossi- it’s McKenna.

  12. 14

    Particle Man spews:

    Over on Postman a much loved wingnut who calls itself Whirlpool, posted the following:

    I called Mike at AG number above. Very nice man. Esser is on Leave, paid or unpaid, when he is doing “party” work, shopping, sleeping or anything else he chooses.

    Here is the link:

    http://blog.seattletimes.nwsou.....tol_1.html

    What people should know is that Luke’s job with Rob was a political appointment and is known as an exempt position. Luke serves at his friend Rob’s pleasure and works a salaried $84,000/year job with a relaxed scope. The choice to keep him on has the stink of corruption for good reason. And we thought the GOP opposed public financing of campaigns, yet not one in either Democratic caucus has proposed having taxpayors fund party activity. I guess Rob and Luke are ok with that though.

  13. 15

    Matty spews:

    Cheap shot Goldy. As a moderate R I usually read your posts as valid for debate. This one is reaching and very weak.

  14. 16

    Richard Pope spews:

    Isn’t every single attorney position at the Attorney General’s office an exempt position? The secretaries and support staff are civil service, but all attorney positions are exempt:

    RCW 43.10.060
    Appointment and authority of assistants.

    The attorney general may appoint necessary assistants, who shall hold office at his pleasure, and who shall have the power to perform any act which the attorney general is authorized by law to perform.

    Obviously, that doesn’t excuse McKenna and Esser from following the ethics laws — which apply equally to elected officials, exempt appointees, and civil service employees.

    Historically, most attorney staff at the Attorney General’s Office have been hired on a career basis, as opposed to a political basis. Out of over 400 attorneys, Gregoire probably had fewer than 10 who were hired for any obvious political reason. Probably the same thing is true for McKenna — most of the folks having been working there since before January 2005. Although I would suspect that McKenna probably has more political hires than Gregoire ever did.

    Technically, every single attorney position “is a political appointment and is known as an exempt position”. In practice, very few of them are. It would be both practically and politically impossible for an incoming Attorney General (or county Prosecuting Attorney for that matter) to fire all attorney staff not affiliated with their own political party, and fill all the resulting vacancies from people loyal to their own political party.

  15. 18

    spews:

    Esser may be totally abusing the systems, but I find it plausible that he can take paid/non-paid time off from his government job while doing party work, if his tenure at the WA AG Office is ending in 2-3 weeks.

    Not a huge issue for me. If he were to do both jobs at once with no (very) short-term goal of leaving the government, then I’d have an issue.

  16. 19

    Richard Pope spews:

    Clearly, I would have to say that Luke Esser was a political hire by Rob McKenna. Objectively, Esser’s experience in practicing law was minimal. While he was admitted to the Washington State Bar back in November 1989, I don’t believe that Esser ever practiced law on a full-time or regular basis. For a career track hire, Esser would likely be considered for an entry level position (as a real working attorney) around $45,000 per year, and not a senior level position (Outreach Director?) around $84,000 per year.

    On the other hand, it was perfectly legitimate under state law for McKenna to appoint any licensed attorney to any attorney position in his office, since RCW 43.10.060 gives him that power.

    It was a bit unusual for a State Senator to be appointed to such a position. Although it is certainly not unusual for state legislators to work full-time for the government, including public law positions.

    For example, Adam Smith became an assistant city attorney for Seattle around the time he was elected to the State Senate in 1990. He continued working for Seattle until around the time he was elected to Congress in 1996. However, Smith had a regular prosecutor job for Seattle, and started out at the entry level (just like any other new hire for Seattle).

  17. 20

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    As usual, the rethugs are interested in the rule of law – just so long as the laws aren’t applied to them. And these asswipes have the nerve to claim the moral high ground?

  18. 22

    rhp6033 spews:

    Richard Pope said: “It would be both practically and politically impossible for an incoming Attorney General (or county Prosecuting Attorney for that matter) to fire all attorney staff not affiliated with their own political party, and fill all the resulting vacancies from people loyal to their own political party.”

    Of course. Somebody has to do the grunt work, might as well give that to the REAL lawyers.

    But from everything I’m hearing about the fumbled Iraqi reconstruction, it appears that the neo-cons who took over that task tried to do exactly that. They ignored experienced State Dept. employees who had been involved in reconstruction efforts around the world and instead hired clearly unqualified neophites as long as they had demonstrated political loyalty. Before these details were known, I never would have dreamed that a political party would have so recklessly endangered U.S. interests in the world and the lives of U.S. soldiers for partison idealogical advantage. And don’t get me started on FEMA and Katrina.

    Seven years ago I considered myself a rather conservative Southern Democrat, who would consider voting for a Republican if he/she appeared to be the best candidate for the job. After all, we are all patriots, and differ only with respect to priorities and methods, right?

    No longer. The Bush administration has radicalized me, and I no longer am willing to trust anyone who identifies themselves as a Republican.

  19. 23

    ArtFart spews:

    Sort of in relation to rhp6033’s comment above, how many folks besides me think McCain, in his criticism of General Page for daring to express his doubts about the DumbenFuhrer’s latest “great plan for victory”, just threw away any remaining chance he might have had of becming our next President?

  20. 24

    ArtFart spews:

    22 OOPS….I meant General Casey. It’s getting a little difficult to keep track of all the folks passing through the revolving door at the Pentagon.

  21. 25

    proud leftist spews:

    22
    McCain looks more and more like a desperate buffoon. He has sacrificed principle and integrity for a rapidly waning chance of becoming president. I hope he is the GOP candidate. He is assailable on many fronts. Chuck Hagel is the one possibility that scares me. He is far more credible than McCain on Iraq and actually seems to have some honor about him.

  22. 26

    Particle Man spews:

    Proud leftist @24

    Speeking of principle and integrity, how is it that the GOP in DC and here at the AG’s office and at the GOP’s state office knows no bounds? Are they drinking flavored water??

  23. 27

    proud leftist spews:

    Ah, Particle Man, did you expect principle and integrity from those folks? The GOP has become a little sect, or perhaps a cult, of true believers. The party of Goldwater has become a Stalinist throng of ideological purists who demand that private lives conform to an unattainable ideal and that those who do not conform be exiled or executed. Of course, those who pretend to pass the purity test can do whatever the hell they want. Their sins are ignored. Luke Esser did not used to be such a bad guy, twenty years or so ago. Once he hitched his wagon to the GOP and sought to rise in the party, however, he became as bad as all of them.

  24. 28

    LiberalRedneck spews:

    Rob McKenna is one of the most corrupt politicians in the state of Washington. He only acts as a ‘government reformer’ to cover up his own tainted operations – same way these moralistic Evangelists use politics to hide their own moral failings.

  25. 29

    spews:

    were any of you bothered by the many positions that gregoire has always made sure her [untalented] husband held on the taxpayer’s dime?
    no?
    it’s called hypocrisy….and you are suffering from it goldy.
    and let’s face it….you have been doing sim’s dirty work for him for quite awhile now, right? this is different how?
    oh,…that’s right! he isn’t paying you.

  26. 30

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    Right wingers teach their kids that it’s always okay to rob a bank, cheat on a test, kill your friend, burn down a barn, as long as you can point your fingers toward someone else who has done something wrong. That’s why all republicans are completely without values.

  27. 31

    spews:

    right…people that make sweeping generalizations about entire groups of people are generally called bigots.
    i don’t think democrats are without values. how many republicans do you actually know? and where does all this hatred come from anyway?

    “Right wingers teach their kids that it’s always okay to rob a bank, cheat on a test, kill your friend, burn down a barn, as long as you can point your fingers toward someone else who has done something wrong. That’s why all republicans are completely without values.”

    this statement is based on what? your unreasonable hatred for half the country?
    think about it……….

  28. 33

    Richard Pope spews:

    Christmas Ghost,

    Mike Gregoire worked for the Attorney General’s Office long before his wife was ever elected Attorney General. Apparently did a pretty decent job, since Ken Eikenberry (or was it Slade Gorton before him) hired him. I think Mike’s position was civil service, since he was not an attorney (exempt position) or anything like that.

    Anyway, I had people research this issue 11 years ago when I first ran against Christine Gregoire. There was no “dirt” in this issue to hold against her or smear her with. If there had been, I certainly would have used it.

    Even the folks who were most passionately against Gregoire never attacked her on this issue. For example, in 2004, there were a lot more resources (i.e. money) to attack Gregoire with, than I ever had back in 1996 or 2000. You didn’t see any BIAW or other “independent expenditures” attacking Gregoire on this issue, now did you?

  29. 34

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    Ghost read your post at 29. You prove my point. Rather than acknowledge your guy is dirty, you prove that you have not one shred of values by simply pointing to other people’s bad acts as an excuse in an attempt at deflection. That’s Karl Rove playbook page one. Get over yourself and stop pretending to be a human being.

  30. 35

    Puddybud spews:

    StillStupid@34: Take your own hollow words to heart. “Get over yourself and stop pretending to be a human being.”

    You pretend to be a human being when you claim you had sex from anyone one the right.

    We know you are a fudge packer from early childhood.

    Nuff Said

  31. 37

    Puddybud spews:

    LeftStillStupid: Just like Libtards who teach their kids it’s okay to have early sex, have many kids because the government will pay you for your little bastards and bitches. You don’t need to have a husband and they don’t need to have a father figure around because the government will be the nanny and father to them, using other people’s money.

    That’s why Libtards decried welfare reform.

    Now back to the topic at hand: This deal may be a little shady. But it’s the libtard way to convict before proven guilty. I’ll hold my judgment on it. That’s why Voice of Chalk Scratching posts this as red meat for his rabid dogs, his ASSWipes so to speak!

    So libtards what do you think about similar deeds uncovered in Chicago and Philadelphia political systems where people resigned in disgrace over the last two years? Google it Moonbat!s. Once again the Furball adage comes true: “We don’t care as long as they’re our crooks”! So you who think Libtards are holier than neocons live in their little FUWA bubble.

  32. 38

    Puddybud spews:

    Then you have “Stupid is as Stupid does” post #28.

    In the words of the late Clara Peller: Where’s the Proof?

  33. 40

    RightEqualsStupid spews:

    Hi Puffybutt – I’m done with your sister, now on to your cousin. Hopefully, she isn’t as ugly as your wife.

  34. 41

    ArtFart spews:

    Just wondering…does being an “exempt” state employee mean the same thing now as it did when I worked for the U of W in the 70’s? If so, the position can still be under civil service rules, it’s just that you’re considered “professional staff” as opposed to a tradesperson, and thus you’re paid a salary instead of an hourly wage. So, you’re not being paid to show up but rather to get the job done. In the research environment I worked in, it meant people were “exempt” from being paid for all the extra hours we worked.

    On the other hand, we were still accountable for the days we took off. Either it came out of your vacation time, sick leave or deferred holiday pay, or you didn’t get paid for the days you were absent. A few hours or half a day off left a certain amount of wiggle room at the discretion of employee and supervisor. (In some departments, loooong Friday lunches at the Northlake Tavern were pretty common.)

    It doesn’t sound like Esser has been working in the AG’s office long enough to have accrued much vacation time.