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State Sen. Doug Ericksen responds to controversial Cambodian contract

State Sen. Doug Ericksen. (AP)

Republican Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen is responding to recent reports that he contracted with the government of Cambodia, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, after the country’s controversial elections. At the same time, the Cambodian government has come under scrutiny for human rights violations.

“The Kingdom of Cambodia is reaching out to the United States, trying to improve relations,” Washington State Representative Doug Ericksen told the Candy, Mike, and Todd Show on KIRO Radio. “I think it is important for us to take advantage of that and to work with them to try to get that done.”

Ericksen represents Washington’s 42nd Legislative District, covering much of Whatcom County.

The Seattle Times reported that Ericksen and fellow Republican and former state Rep. Jay Rodne traveled to Cambodia in March. The two Washingtonians have created a company — PacRim Bridges — which signed a $500,000 per year contract with the Cambodian government.

Ericksen reportedly said that the country’s recent elections were “free, just, and nonviolent…” despite news that the government closed independent media organizations and effectively shut down the opposition party.

“The election process itself was very good,” Ericksen said. “The structure and the function of the election. They had voter ID, they had secret ballots, the counting system worked exceptionally well. So the structure of the campaign was very good.”

“Now, I wasn’t there to observe the politics that led up to it,” he said. “That’s an internal issue for Cambodia to deal with…”

As The Seattle Times reported:

Ericksen’s parlaying of his elected position into a business relationship with the authoritarian Hun Sen regime is attracting condemnation from human-rights activists, local Cambodian Americans, exiled leaders of Cambodia’s opposition party and even a Republican congressman.

The Times further reported that Ericksen used surplus campaign funds to partially pay for his trip to Cambodia. Cambodian-Americans from Washington have criticized Ericksen’s business deal with the country. Mu Sochua, a former member of the Cambodian parliament who fled the country in 2017 to Morocco told The Times that “it may not be illegal for him to establish that firm, but he has no ethics whatsoever.”

Sen. Doug Ericksen responds

Ericksen told KIRO Radio that he followed all the rules when dealing with Cambodia — he and his partners filed as foreign agents with the federal government. He also argued that The Seattle Times was trying to put a negative spin on the story; that the newspaper misrepresents Republicans and conservatives. Ericksen says the report is inaccurate.

“It’s pretty interesting, I think it’s a great opportunity to build relations between Cambodia and the United States, promote trade, cultural relations. Really do a lot of good things, I think, for both countries,” he said. “The press coverage out of The Seattle Times has been a little slanted, not too surprising from my perspective. I think what we are doing is we’ve formed a company, and we have signed on with one client, and we will probably be bringing other ones in the future, just to work on improving relations, helping out people. That’s what we’re working on right now.”

“They tried to make it look like this was done in secret, that there were some kind of nefarious activities going on. No, it was all done completely above board … they don’t cover the things I’m focused in on. We’re working very hard with the Cambodians right now to fight human trafficking, to fight drug trafficking out of Southeast Asia, to work on anti-terrorism activities …”

Ericksen further argues against the implication that he alone is making money off of the Cambodian contract.

“That contract is with the company,” Ericksen said. “It’s not money to Doug Ericksen. It goes to PacRim Bridges. There are other people involved with that company. So it’s not Doug Ericksen receiving a check for $500,000.”

“I’m a partner, but it’s not $500,000 coming to Doug Erickson,” he said.

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