Campaign contribution limits raised

OLYMPIA — You soon can give more money to candidates and get a better idea of whether a lobbyist bought a lawmaker a full dinner or just a cup of coffee.

Starting in January, the maximum amount one can give to candidates for city, county and legislative offices will be $950 per election, which is $50 greater than the current limit.

Those running for governor or other statewide office can now tap donors for $1,900 per election, which is $100 more, and $3,800 if they are involved in a primary and a general election.

The state Public Disclosure Commission approved the new schedule of contribution limits last week. Under state law, commissioners can revise the limits every two years to account for inflation. The panel boosted them slightly in 2012 as well.

Also last week, commissioners took action to ensure lobbyists are clearer on exactly what they spend when they host lawmakers at dinners and receptions.

They approved revising the form used by lobbyists for disclosing entertainment expenses by adding directions to include the “actual amount spent entertaining each individual.”

This isn’t a new practice but an attempt to clarify an existing policy, commission spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.

Lobbyists today are required by law to report what they spend per lawmaker for such things as food and drink. But specific instructions to do so do not appear on the form and many leave it out.

So when a lobbyist hosts multiple lawmakers at a dinner, it is not clear if they all ate dinner or if possibly some did not.

The issue came to light earlier this year when The Associated Press and a consortium of public radio stations reported on the difficulty of tracking the amount of money lobbyists spend wining and dining lawmakers.

The new contribution limits and changes in the form go into effect Jan. 5.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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