Press Talk: More dirty laundry exposed

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

Far be it from me to air my political friends' dirty laundry, but … come on, man.

What I'm talking about, of course, is a few state legislators who have opted to charge taxpayers for their dry cleaning.

You just can't make up funny stuff like this.

Republican state Sen. Ann Rivers appears to be at the top of the statewide laundry heap on this issue, charging taxpayers more than $500 last year.

Democratic Rep. Jim Moeller wasn't far behind with about $450. (They must charge extra for bow ties.) And Republican Sen. Don Benton ran up a $72 bill.

In all, seven Democrats and 12 Republicans in the state Legislature charged taxpayers to keep their clothes sparkling. It's proof positive that no particular party has cornered the market in cleaning out (I hope you're noticing the laundry terms here) our pockets.

Rivers, God bless her, had this to say about dry cleaning:

"We're expected to wear a suit every day. After a while, the dry cleaning piles up. … You should look nice and you should smell nice and you should be doing the work of the people."

Huh?

I would say that I believe Rivers will be a huge player in Olympia. She's that good. But if I were listing the important things a senator should be doing, I would not put looking and smelling nice in the same category as doing the work of the people.

Just sayin'.

Moeller, God bless him, had this to say. And -- again -- I'm not making this stuff up!

"I'm always looking for ways to save taxpayers money."

Huh?

Look, Jim, you have a lot going for you. You're extremely bright, articulate and that ever-present bow tie frames your face in a very becoming manner.

But trust me on this one. No one -- not even you -- believes you're all about saving taxpayers money.

Benton, of course, didn't have anything to say. He doesn't believe he has to explain himself. (Just in case you've been wondering why this guy has so many close calls when he runs for re-election, his lying low and avoiding the tough questions is one of his issues.)

Both Rivers and Moeller went on to essentially say they had an obligation to look spiffy.

But that really begs the question. No one is suggesting one shouldn't look spiffy. The question is, "Should taxpayers be footing the bill for it?"

Here's one way of looking at it. There are 147 state representatives and state senators. Only 19 of them felt they should charge taxpayers for their dry cleaning. That's 87 percent who didn't charge the taxpayers.

Even former state Sen. Craig Pridemore couldn't resist saying in our comments section that he never charged for laundry when he was in Olympia.

But what about those who argue this is chump change? Or that the rules allow them to do it?

I counter: So what?

There's a principle at play here that is bigger than the amount involved. Once someone feels comfortable when they reach into your pocket for small change, it becomes a lot easier on the big-ticket items.

And about those rules allowing them to do it? Hmmm. I wonder who wrote those rules?

Hey, do me a favor, guys. Do the taxpayers a favor. Clean up your act! :-)


Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, http://twitter.com/lounews or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.