42.52.170  <<  42.52.180 >>   42.52.185

Use of public resources for political campaigns.

*** CHANGE IN 2024 *** (SEE 5857-S.SL) ***
(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.
(2) This section shall not apply to the following activities:
(a) Action taken at an open public meeting by members of an elected legislative body to express a collective decision, or to actually vote upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance, or to support or oppose a ballot proposition as long as (i) required notice of the meeting includes the title and number of the ballot proposition, and (ii) members of the legislative body or members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression of an opposing view;
(b) A statement by an elected official in support of or in opposition to any ballot proposition at an open press conference or in response to a specific inquiry. For the purposes of this subsection, it is not a violation of this section for an elected official to respond to an inquiry regarding a ballot proposition, to make incidental remarks concerning a ballot proposition in an official communication, or otherwise comment on a ballot proposition without an actual, measurable expenditure of public funds. The ethics boards shall adopt by rule a definition of measurable expenditure;
(c)(i) The maintenance of official legislative websites throughout the year, regardless of pending elections. The websites may contain any discretionary material which was also specifically prepared for the legislator in the course of his or her duties as a legislator, including newsletters and press releases.
(ii) The official legislative websites of legislators seeking reelection or election to any office shall not be altered, other than during a special legislative session, beginning on the first day of the declaration of candidacy filing period specified in RCW 29A.24.050 through the date of certification of the general election of the election year. As used in this subsection, "legislator" means a legislator who is a "candidate," as defined in RCW 42.17A.005, for any public office. "Legislator" does not include a member of the legislature who has announced their retirement from elected public office and who does not file a declaration of candidacy by the end of the candidacy filing period specified in RCW 29A.24.050.
(iii) The website shall not be used for campaign purposes;
(d) Activities that are part of the normal and regular conduct of the office or agency, which include but are not limited to:
(i) Communications by a legislator or appropriate legislative staff designee directly pertaining to any legislative proposal which has been introduced in either chamber of the legislature; and
(ii) Posting, by a legislator or appropriate legislative staff designee, information to a legislator's official legislative website including an official legislative social media account, about:
(A) Emergencies;
(B) Federal holidays, state and legislatively recognized holidays established under RCW 1.16.050, and religious holidays;
(C) Information originally provided or published by other government entities which provide information about government resources; and
(D) Achievements, honors, or awards of extraordinary distinction; and
(e) De minimis use of public facilities by statewide elected officials and legislators incidental to the preparation or delivery of permissible communications, including written and verbal communications initiated by them of their views on ballot propositions that foreseeably may affect a matter that falls within their constitutional or statutory responsibilities.
(3) As to state officers and employees, this section operates to the exclusion of RCW 42.17A.555.
(4) As used in this section, "official legislative website" includes, but is not limited to, a legislator's official legislative social media accounts.


FindingIntent2017 c 7: "The legislature finds that the prohibition on the use of public resources for campaign purposes serves an important purpose, but that the period prohibiting state legislators from communicating with constituents at public expense is unnecessary once the election, and the campaign itself, has ended. Furthermore, the delay in constituent outreach after the election only hinders a legislator's ability to quickly and effectively respond to requests and keep the public informed about current state issues, and the various deadlines relating to mailed, emailed, and website communications are confusing and need to be harmonized. For these reasons, the legislature intends to change mailed, emailed, and website communication deadlines to the same time periods, in order to allow legislators to actively engage with the public on official legislative business in a timely and effective manner." [ 2017 c 7 § 1.]
Effective date2017 c 7: "This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and takes effect immediately [March 31, 2017]." [ 2017 c 7 § 4.]
Effective date2011 c 60: See RCW 42.17A.919.
Effective dateCaptions1995 c 397: See RCW 42.17A.910 and 42.17A.911.
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