Former lawmakers call to eliminate law permitting campaign surplus accounts

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OLYMPIA (AP) — Two former members of the state Legislature said Tuesday it is time for lawmakers to eliminate campaign surplus accounts, which some politicians have tapped for iPads, clothing, car repairs, tuition and alcohol.

Former state Rep. Toby Nixon and former state Sen. Bill Finkbeiner said they have started working with lawmakers to close the accounts after an Associated Press story identified a variety of questionable expenditures. Finkbeiner said legislators appear to be using the surplus funds as an extra checking account.

"I just feel like they're being abused," Finkbeiner said. "There's not enough oversight."

Nixon, a Republican, is currently president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, which bills itself as a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization advocating for transparency. Finkbeiner is a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

State law allows politicians to use their surplus accounts for a variety of things, including an umbrella option for "office-related expenses." Nixon and Finkbeiner say that is too broad. They propose the elimination of the accounts and would allow politicians to either return excess money to contributors or to save it for future elections.

Nixon said the accounts serve as a temptation for politicians to misuse the money. He said no lawmakers have agreed to introduce the legislation, but he suspects there are some who will be on board.

"I do think there are quite a few legislators — on both sides of the aisle — who are very committed to ethics and would be willing to sponsor this kind of bill," Nixon said.