Rachel Pritchett’s Sunday piece about the rise and fall of lawyer and former lawmaker Gordon Walgren is filled with fascinating tales from the capitol rotunda.
Yes, there was Gamscam, that brought Walgren crashing down. But another tale, in particular, raised my eyebrow. From her story:
“The chief of the Washington State Patrol routinely gave leaders — including Walgren — stacks of small plastic sleeves with “legislator” stamped for lawmakers to slide over their driver’s licenses, should they be stopped. The practice worked fine, for a while. But an unimpressed Eastern Washington trooper ticketed one anyway, the press picked up on it, and the questionable practice was abandoned.”
I called Walgren Tuesday to ask him about it. He said the sleeves had “LEGISLATOR” written in red, diagonally across the sleeve, about a half-inch in size.
He said he always felt the idea was a free pass to get out of speeding tickets, but nothing more serious than that.
But, as Pritchett pointed out in the story, the practice ended with one ticket in Eastern Washington.
“And that was the end of the program,” he said.
Interestingly, just weeks before, I had gotten a Facebook inquiry from a local reader about this practice after we ran a story about the Department of Licensing’s operation of a secret fictitious licensing program. It got me curious to the point that fellow reporter Ed Friedrich and I made a couple calls.
I spoke with State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who said he had no such thing, never has. Friedrich asked Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, if she and other lawmakers had “LEGISLATOR” written on her driver’s license.
“I can’t even imagine anything so awful,” she responded. “Not true.”
So today’s lawmakers have no such thing. But the ones of yesteryear appear to have gotten a perk that lasted at least a few years, until an Eastern Washington police officer did the right thing.