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Donate to sick lawmakers? Limits apply to some gifts

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on April 18, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
April 18, 2013 2:23 pm

Legislative lawyers are advising ailing lawmakers to take no more than $50 from people offering to help with medical expenses — with some big exceptions — to stay in line with ethics laws.

Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood
Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood

That’s what the Legislative Ethics Board was told at its meeting today. Sen. Mike Carrell and Reps. Roger Freeman and Richard DeBolt are dealing with major illnesses, and the lawyers have received questions about medical expense funds.

Carrell’s friends have raised at least $11,976 for him. Insurance is covering much of his actual treatment for a blood condition but the gifts are intended to help with related expenses. Legislators and staff are invited to a silent auction and bake sale Wednesday on the Capitol campus that is expected to add to the total by auctioning off Mariners tickets, cords of wood, beach vacations, professional photo shoots and more.

That’s where the exceptions come in. One group that doesn’t have to limit gifts to $50 under ethics laws is state employees, including fellow legislators and staff. What’s more, the limits don’t apply to people whose gifts can be seen as part of their relationship with the legislator outside the legislative process, House counsel Tim Sekerak said. That means friends, co-workers, members of a church — likely most of the people who would want to donate — are exempt.

So the restrictions mostly apply to lobbyists and others who could be seen as benefiting from what the Legislature does.

So far, Sekerak said: “The public’s and the third house’s (lobbyist) support has been within appropriate limits as far as we can tell.”

Lawyers are also urging donations to be made anonymously when possible to avoid the appearance of favors, he said.

Carrell is due to receive a bone marrow transplant on Tuesday. Here’s what he wrote in his legislative newsletter this week:

I’m preparing to begin aggressive treatment for my MDS, a pre-leukemia condition which affects the cells in my blood and bone. All of my procedures will be outpatient at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and the treatment is scheduled to begin April 17th. It is a 100-day process that begins with low-doses of chemotherapy to lower my body’s defenses and help increase the chance that the procedure will be successful. On the 23rd, I will undergo a low dose of full body radiation and then within a few hours I will be injected with my brother’s stem cells. Doctors are hopeful that my brother’s healthy stem cells will march in and take over for the weakened marrow cells in my body. I want to express to you how appreciative Charlotte and I are of your letters, cards, gifts, thoughts, and prayers. I don’t think we could make it through what lies ahead of us without your support. Thank you so much for your concern, and please continue to pray for us. I believe it truly does make a difference.

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