New Ethics Law Passed to Prevent Hidden Gifts to Lawmakers

July 30, 2008

Oklahoma becomes the first state to prohibit political action committees from giving money to other political action committees. This is one of the new rules enacted by the state Ethics Commission which took effect July 1st. Another new rule permits gifts to legislators and state elected officials only up to $100.

The new rules take effect because the legislature offered no objection this past legislative session to the new rules proposed by the Ethics Commission.

Under the old rules which allowed political action committees to give money to one another, the original contributor of money could become hidden as there was no end in one committee giving money to others and back again.

The rules on gifts to law makers and state elected officials had permitted gifts up to $300.00 per calendar year. That figure has been changed to $100.00. Also, law makers and state elected officials had been required to report gifts only in the value of $50 or more. One of the new rules taking effect with the other rules requires lobbyists to report spending more than $10 on a state official or aide during each six-month period.

Of the $207,764 spent last year on legislators by lobbyists, records show that 24% of that went to season tickets to Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University football games. More than 90 legislators received O.U. season football tickets. The season ticket costs $379, with the University paying $300 last year and the legislator paying the balance of $79.00. Now, O.U. will be allowed to pay only $100 of the cost of each ticket, and the legislator or elected state official will have to pay the $279 balance.

As citizens in Oklahoma, we want our elected officials to be impartial in their decisions and not influenced by hidden gifts. So this is good for our state and for all those who are affected the elected officials decisions.

Lobbyists spent more than $200,000 for legislators in the year 2007, mostly on meals, gifts and tickets. This was a 20% increase over the previous year, according to Ethics Commission records.