OLYMPIA -- Rep. Brad Klippert said turning to the state to pay his laundry costs was a last resort.
The Kennewick Republican said that when he arrived in Olympia in January 2009 for his first term in the state House of Representatives, he rented a room from a woman who would only let him wash a load of clothes once a week.
"The next place (he rented) there were fleas in the room," he told the Herald in a phone interview Tuesday. "The next place, there was no washer and dryer."
So he started dropping his clothes off for dry cleaning and asking the state to foot the bill -- an expense allowed under state House rules.
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Klippert is one of seven Democrats and 12 Republicans identified by The Associated Press as lawmakers who were reimbursed for dry cleaning while in Olympia. The 19 legislators collectively received more than $5,600 since the start of 2011.
The AP reported that Klippert was reimbursed about $480. Klippert said he couldn't recall the specific amount without going through his receipts.
Bernard Dean, the House chief deputy clerk, said representatives can be reimbursed for certain types of work-related expenses such as travel, rent for district offices and dry cleaning.
They have to submit receipts to the Chief Clerk's Office, and the expense has to be one the IRS allows for reimbursement. It also has to meet the state's ethics guidelines.
Dry cleaning meets both criteria, Dean told the Herald.
"If it doesn't meet that standard, it's not allowed," he said. "The important thing for us is to ensure it is a legally reimbursable expense."
Klippert said he has had reimbursement requests for mileage back to the Tri-Cities rejected by the House clerk if he wasn't attending a legislative-related event.
"They vet it with a fine-toothed comb," he said.
Klippert said he considers dry cleaning an expense relevant to his work as a legislator because of the dress code required in the House.
"We have to dress a certain way," said Klippert, a Benton County sheriff's deputy assigned to Kiona-Benton City High School when he's not in Olympia.
And when asked whether that fits with the fiscally conservative stance he has taken as a lawmaker, Klippert said he'd do his own laundry if he could.
"That is what I attempted to do when I got here," he said.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @mduplertch