- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Pierce County officials won’t allow the media access to a presentation that some lawmakers are attending in exchange for free admission to this month’s U.S. Open golf championship.

The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1JlgQ4P ) that county officials said that while the slideshow that they will use during their presentation to lawmakers will be part of the public record after the event, media will not be permitted to attend.

Pierce County spokesman Hunter George said the U.S. Open gathering is no different than when lawmakers meet privately with Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy in her office to discuss policy.

“You don’t have access to that either,” he said.

The Capitol Correspondents Association sent a letter Tuesday protesting Pierce County officials’ decision to close the presentation to the media.

Earlier this year, the state’s Legislative Ethics Board said that the $110 tickets are acceptable exemptions to state rules that cap lawmaker gifts to a $50 value because county officials said that lawmakers won’t be at the tournament primarily as spectators. Instead, they will learn about developments to the site of the tournament expected to draw more than 200,000 visitors.

County officials have offered more than 40 lawmakers free admission to the event, but they’re not yet sure how many plan to attend.

George said that officials want to share with legislative leaders how state and local agencies came together to help put on the event, as well as how Chambers Bay has evolved from a gravel mine into a premier golf course.

Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, said seeing a copy of the county’s presentation after the fact won’t tell anyone whether lawmakers actually watched it, or “whether they’re having a cocktail party and there’s this slideshow being ignored off in the corner.”

“To me it comes across as very suspicious,” Nixon said. “Say all they are really doing is wining and dining the legislators, and this is just an outright gift … without the justification of providing information to them.”

Some lawmakers who have been invited by the county said they don’t plan to attend. Lawmakers are in the midst of a second overtime session as they try to come to agreement on a state operating budget.

“I have other priorities,” said House Minority Leader Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish.

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Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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