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WA Legislative Ethics Board: Rep. Corry working for think tank a conflict of interest

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(The Center Square) – Washington state’s Legislative Ethics Board recently issued an advisory opinion finding it’s a violation for Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, to serve while at his new job as director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center.

Corry – who started working at the free-market think tank on May 1 – requested an advisory opinion on April 13 regarding the outside employment of a legislator.

According to the advisory opinion, Corry serving in both positions is a violation of chapter 42.52.020 of the Revised Code of Washington, which states, “No state officer or state employee may have an interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in a business or transaction or professional activity, or incur an obligation of any nature, that is in conflict with the proper discharge of the state officer’s or state employee’s official duties.”

The advisory opinion concluded that Corry’s position with WPC conflicts with his duties as a lawmaker.

“A significant portion of the WPC’s mission is to take public positions on certain issues and advocate for those positions with the public and the legislature,” the advisory opinion notes. “Under the Board’s decision In re House and Senate Staff 2022, – No. 11, these actions are considered lobbying. Even with the protections agreed to by the WPC, they are insufficient to alleviate the pe se conflict of interest that exists with Rep. Corry’s employment with the WPC.”

Per the advisory opinion, WPC has said it “will maintain full separation of official legislative functions and role when conducting official business, delivering legislative testimony, delivering legislative correspondence, voting, and similar activities.”

The case referenced, previously noted in the advisory opinion, found that staff taking sick leave to protest the failure of a bill to move constituted lobbying and violated the activities incompatible with public duties per state code.

WPC responded to the advisory opinion Friday afternoon on social media.

“Chris Corry also requested the opinion,” WPC tweeted. “We expect when the board receives clarification it will satisfy the concerns raised.”

The Center Square previously asked about any possible conflict of interest concerns when it was announced Corry would become WPC’s new director of the Center for Government Reform.

“We are a 501(c)(3) and do not invest, build, or sell any product or good,” David Boze, WPC’s communications director, explained at the time in an email to The Center Square. “We are a think tank. It is not possible for anyone who is a WPC employee to present a conflict of interest when we have zero organic/owned economic asset that benefits from our views. Again, that reality is consistent with the IRS structure for non-profit think tanks. We think and present policy analysis. We are not a company or an industry.”

The two parties did their due diligence, he stressed.

“Both WPC and Mr. Corry sought legal advice from the relevant authorities concerning the parameters of an employment relationship before agreeing to move forward and will abide by each and every ethical rule under Washington law and the rules of the Legislature,” Boze said.

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