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WAGOP files ethics complaint against WA Secretary of State Steve Hobbs

Bellevue—The WAGOP has filed a complaint with the Washington State Executive Ethics Board against WA Secretary of State Steve Hobbs for using taxpayers’ money to surveil critics (for the purpose of suppressing dissent), which is a violation of the Washington State Constitution and ethics rules. The Executive Board enforces the Ethics in Public Service Act, RCW 42.52. The full complaint can be read here.

Filing this Executive Ethics Board complaint is unfortunate but necessary. It is wrong for the WA Secretary of State to use taxpayers’ money to hire a UK-based “cyber-sleuthing” firm to surveil what his critics and political opponents read, write, or share on the internet,” says WAGOP Chairman Jim Walsh. “It is a violation of state laws and ethics rules on the use of public resources. More importantly, it is an intimidation tactic to chill free speech and what the Washington State Constitution calls ‘absolute freedom of conscience’—a value often associated with freedom of religion but, in fact, much broader.”

Upon learning that he was one of several specific targets of the UK-based firm’s “tracking reports,” Chairman Walsh asked the Secretary of State—in a face-to-face conversation—to terminate his contract with the British company. Secretary Hobbs refused, claiming that election security requires it.

“He’s wrong,” adds Chairman Walsh. “Election security does not require snooping on what outspoken political leaders like Skagit County Republican Chairman Bill Bruch or I write or share on social media. That is a violation of our constitutional rights—especially if it involves actions taken by the UK-based firm against us (or other American citizens) that cause our speech to be blocked or shadow-banned by social media platforms. It is also harassment and attempted intimidation, using the people’s money and human resources. The intimidation is not going to work, of course. But the use of Washington taxpayers’ money is unconscionable. And unethical.”

“The WAGOP has asked the WA Executive Ethics Board to compel the Secretary of State to cancel his unethical contract with Logically, the UK-based ‘cyber-sleuthing’ firm. The WAGOP is requesting this on behalf of everyone in Washington, regardless of their political beliefs. Washington Republicans believe in free speech for everyone and the freedom to exercise their conscience—unhindered and not harassed by government bureaucrats spending taxpayer dollars.”