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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."

Millennial State Lawmaker Defends Against Ethics Charges After Social Media Sharing

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Republican state Rep. Melanie Stambaugh, foreground, is defending herself against allegations she violated ethics rules by posting legislative videos and photos to a campaign Facebook page.

Washington’s youngest state lawmaker is defending herself against ethics charges related to her social media practices. Republican Melanie Stambaugh appeared Tuesday before the Legislative Ethics Board.

Stambaugh is a 26-year-old Millennial from Puyallup who’s been active on social media since high school. She regularly posts updates from the campaign trail to a Facebook page she describes as “the journal of my life.”

But Stambaugh has also posted dozens of videos and photos shot by taxpayer-funded legislative staff. Now Stambaugh is accused of using state resources for campaign purposes on more than 40 occasions. It’s a charge she denies.

“I did not violate the Ethics in Public Service Act,” she said. “I simply did the duty of an elected official of informing my constituents of the work that I do day in and day out here in the Capitol.”

Stambaugh said the legislature’s rules for how to properly link to legislative videos and photos are antiquated. A lawyer for the state counters there’s a “zero tolerance” policy for using state resources to further one’s campaign.

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."