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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Lawmakers Can Accept Free U.S. Open Tickets If They Attend Seminar

Jeff Hanway
Chambers Bay golf course near Tacoma will host the U.S. Open in June.

Call it the timeshare rule. Washington lawmakers can accept free tickets to this summer’s U.S. Open golf championship -- if they attend a three-hour tour and seminar.

That was the vote Tuesday by the Legislative Ethics Board.

This June, Chambers Bay in Pierce County -- with its sweeping views of Puget Sound -- will host many of the biggest stars in golf.

The tournament is already sold out, but Pierce County has 300 free tickets to parcel out and officials there want to give some of them to state lawmakers. The problem is gifts to worth more than $50 are not allowed.

Now Pierce County has designed a tour and program for lawmakers to attend on topics like the economic impact of the U.S. Open. That’s enough to make the tournament official legislative duty under the law.

Mike O’Connell, an attorney for the Legislative Ethics Board, explained to Board members that lawmakers would spend the first part of the day attending this formal program.

“And then legislators would be able after that time to stay around if you will at the hospitality tent and if they cared to and perhaps watch some of the golfers,” he said.

The Ethics Board first voted in February to allow lawmakers to accept U.S. Open tickets. This latest vote by the Board adopts a formal Advisory Opinion on the matter saying lawmakers who accept free U.S. Open tickets under this arrangement won’t be violating the State Ethics Act.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."