Rantz: State official misused tax dollars for future campaign for Governor

Apr 2, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Apr 3, 2023, 6:36 am

Hilary franz governor house...

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz announced she was running for Governor in 2024 (Washington State Department of Natural Resources)

(Washington State Department of Natural Resources)

The Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands abused her office by spending tax dollars to promote her future campaign for Governor.

Commissioner Hilary Franz released a press release to respond to news that former President Donald Trump is being indicted. Armed with the keyboard shortcuts for copying and pasting, Franz said what virtually every other Democrat has said. She says we’re “a nation of laws” and that we must ensure “our laws are applied to everyone equally, no matter what positions they have held or how wealthy they claim to be.”

Though the indictment is a clear case of political abuse targeting the Republican front-runner for president to weaken his campaign, Franz said the George Soros-backed Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg “has taken a stand against the abuse of political power on behalf of our nation, values, and democracy.” To troll conservatives and anyone else with respect for the legal system, she pretended that the grand jury acted “without bias.”

Obviously, Franz can’t cite the laws allegedly broken. She likely couldn’t even detail the allegations from the case beyond using headline buzzwords like “hush money.” But why in the world is Franz offering comments on the Trump indictment? It’s about her political future.

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Who cares what Franz has to say about Trump? Future voters

Franz is the Commissioner of Public Lands. Her office and role have quite literally nothing to do with Trump or any of the underlying legal issues at play. So, who cares what she has to say about this? She thinks her future voters will.

A loyal Democrat, Franz would never challenge Governor Jay Inslee and face his notoriously vindictive attitude toward those who challenge him. But if he doesn’t run for re-election, she’ll happily jump in. Indeed, she’s wanted to run for Governor for the last several years, and that’s why she took on the commissioner role to begin with. She wanted a statewide job to establish her resume for her future race and she doesn’t hide her intent.

The commissioner believes she needs to establish her anti-Trump bona fides to assuage the aggressively progressive Seattle voter base. It’s not easy to do that as commissioner since she’s wholly disconnected from most national political figures and policy discussions. With Trump in the news, she sent out the uninspired press release, hoping to be picked up by media so that when potential voters Google her when she runs, they’ll come across her disdain for Trump. She doesn’t care if it hurts her relationship with conservative rural leaders she needs to work with on issues her office actually oversees.

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This is misuse of public funds

Franz used tax dollars, government property, and at least one state employee to help her future gubernatorial campaign. You’re not allowed to do that.

Washington state government officials are prohibited by law from using their office or state resources for political campaigning. Both Revised Code of Washington 42.52.180 and 2.17A.555 make this clear. Violation of these laws can result in penalties and fines. Of course, in this case, she’s violating the spirit of the law. She can disingenuously claim this is within her purview. But even attempting to justify this as anything more than politicking would be mocked. It likely explains why her spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Her attempt to earn media coverage wasn’t even successful. As of this writing, there doesn’t appear to be a single media outlet that printed her comments. Her tweet with the same message earned mostly ridicule from people wondering why she thinks anyone cares about her hot takes. Was it worth abusing the office when your stunt didn’t even work?

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