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?