Archive for the ‘Ethics Reforms’ Category

Dank: Ethics Bill Benefits All Candidates, Not Just Incumbents

April 7, 2008

A sweeping ethics reform package making its way through the legislative process will benefit all candidates, not just incumbents, the bill’s author, David Dank (R-OKC) said Friday:

Most Oklahomans believe we need to erect a clear barrier between campaign fundraising and passing laws to prevent even a hint of conflict-of-interest and ‘pay for play’ suspicions. That’s why the Oklahoma Clean Campaign Act of 2008 would ban fundraising by incumbents and candidates alike during and 15 days before and after the annual legislative session.

Officials representing third-party and independent candidates have said the bill would harm their efforts, but Dank said the legislation would benefit all candidates by reducing the campaign-funding powers of incumbency. Dank continued:

House Bill 2196 is a fair and much-needed reform independents should be supporting. There is nothing to forbid a legislative candidate from launching his or her campaign a year or even two years before Election Day, which most candidates do – be they Democrats, Republicans or Independents – because they know what a formidable challenge a political campaign can be.

He noted that independent candidates also have an advantage because they do not have to finance a primary campaign and instead face the voters only at the general election, which gives those candidates more time to raise and spend campaign funds than their major-party opponents.

Although critics have called the ethics reform bill an “incumbent protection plan,” Dank said the new restrictions on fundraising actually level the playing field for challengers:

The current free-for-all system is the biggest incumbent protection plan of all. For decades incumbent legislators of both parties have raised large sums during the legislative session, sometimes totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s not uncommon to see a major donor hand a $5,000 check to a legislator on Monday evening, then appear in that same legislator’s office on Tuesday morning in an effort to influence legislation. That is precisely what HB 2196 is designed to stop – the impression, right or wrong, that legislation is for sale in Oklahoma.

He said an in-session ban on fundraising actually reduces the money-raising power of incumbents:

House Bill 2196 contains vital reforms that can increase public faith in our lawmaking process and draw a clear boundary between fundraising and making law. Democrats and Republicans alike support it. Independents should, too.

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The Benge Standard (or Double Standard)

March 3, 2008

Just weeks after new House Speaker Chris Benge forced House Majority Floor Leader Greg Piatt (R-Ardmore) to make an embarrassing refund of a controversial contribution from a Texas businessman, some Capitol observers are raising questions about thousands of dollars in similar contributions Benge has received.

Benge’s third quarter 2007 ethics report shows he received 43 separate checks, totaling thousands of dollars, all on a single day, July 6, 2007. All of these checks were written by people employed by Career Technology Centers. Benge received an additional check that same day from the Career Tech System’s Political Action Committee. Altogether, the checks total over $4,000.

The donations are drawing scrutiny because Benge as appropriations and budget chairman last year advanced a large budget increase for career techs and much of the increase was used to raise salaries within the career tech system. Now it appears that closely on the heals of that vote and the pay increases, Benge was handsomely rewarded with thousands of dollars in contributions from career tech interests. Some also find it odd that dozens of checks from all across the state were somehow received by the campaign on the very same day.

Capitol observers are now wondering whether Benge will apply the same standard to himself that he applied to Piatt. Piatt was criticized for taking a $5,000 contribution from Texas businessman Brad Phillips after having worked on an insurance bill last session which was favorable to Phillips’ interests. Piatt had refused to return the contribution for weeks but was forced to make an embarrassing flip flop and admit the impropriety of the contribution by returning it shortly after Benge became Speaker. Piatt admitted that Benge asked him to give the contribution back.

Given the thousands of dollars Benge got from a group that he helped legislatively last session that are now drawing scrutiny, Capitol observers wonder if he will apply the same standard to himself that he applied to Piatt and return the contributions. Some see this as an early test of Benge’s leadership – will he apply consistent standards for everyone – including himself – or keep a double standard when it comes to his own fundraising?

Received via the confidential OKPNS Tip Line:

For more information, see the Oklahoma Ethics Commission

Saying "NO" To Lobbyist Gift Giving

February 25, 2008


By Rep. Jason Murphey

Recently, a bill I authored, HB 2444, was approved by the House Rules Subcommittee on Elections and Redistricting. HB 2444 would ask the state Ethics Commission to create and maintain a voluntary “No Gifts List.” Under the bill, lobbyists would be prevented from giving gifts to lawmakers who voluntarily place themselves on the list.

When I asked for your vote to be your State Representative, I did so because I wanted to spend time in the Legislature working for the people, not taking lobbyists gifts and certainly not going through the hassle of returning unsolicted items.

Refusing gifts has proven harder than I expected, as lobbyists kept delivering unrequested items to my office. This became a logistical challenge, since some were left with office staff or even sent in the mail. Other lawmakers have told me of similar frustrations, as they did not want to receive gifts either, and yet items are left at their offices. Read more…

Statement by House Speaker Lance Cargill on Dank Ethics Legislation

September 24, 2007

OKLAHOMA CITY (Monday, Sept. 24, 2007) House Speaker Lance Cargill issued a statement Monday following an announcement by state Rep. David Dank on ethics legislation:

“I commend Representative Dank for coming forward with this proposal for ethics reform. For far too long in our state’s history,there have been too many problems with ethics in state government, from the Supreme Court to the Legislature to the governor’s office. That’s why I was proud to author last year’s House Bill 2101, which has been described by many, including officials at the state Ethics Commission, as the most sweeping and comprehensive legislative ethics reform in years. House Bill 2102, among other things, banned contributions at the Capitol and honoraria payments to legislators. Obviously, anything we do must be constitutional, but we certainly support tough rules. I look forward to reviewing the details of Representative Dank’s proposal.”

OKPNS Legislators’ Blog

May 31, 2007

By Rep. Joe Dorman

The legislative session ended this past Friday and now it’s time to sort through the piles that have stacked up. I had two bills go to the Governor and I’m still waiting for his signature on the bill dealing with firefighter training and funding, along with the creation of a controlled burn indemnity fund established through the Conservation Districts. I do not expect any problems from this bill since I never heard of any efforts to work against it. Every organized fire association, the conservation districts and the agricultural associations were all in support of this bill. Read more…

By Rep. Jason Murphey

The House of Representatives recently passed major legislation amending the ethics rules that govern the fundraising conduct of the campaigns of Oklahoma politicians. These reforms include a new limitation on lobbyists’ influence over elected officials. These ethics reforms were contained in House Bill 2210, sponsored by Lance Cargill, Speaker of the House.

Ethics reform is an issue about which I feel strongly. As an observer and participant in the political process, I have seen first hand how some ethics abuses are perpetrated. As a State Representative, I have also noticed how much influence lobbyists have over the legislative process. When I sought election to this office, I campaigned on a platform of ethics reform.

Read more…

OKPNS Legislators’ Blog

May 31, 2007

By Rep. Joe Dorman

The legislative session ended this past Friday and now it’s time to sort through the piles that have stacked up. I had two bills go to the Governor and I’m still waiting for his signature on the bill dealing with firefighter training and funding, along with the creation of a controlled burn indemnity fund established through the Conservation Districts. I do not expect any problems from this bill since I never heard of any efforts to work against it. Every organized fire association, the conservation districts and the agricultural associations were all in support of this bill. Read more…

By Rep. Jason Murphey

The House of Representatives recently passed major legislation amending the ethics rules that govern the fundraising conduct of the campaigns of Oklahoma politicians. These reforms include a new limitation on lobbyists’ influence over elected officials. These ethics reforms were contained in House Bill 2210, sponsored by Lance Cargill, Speaker of the House.

Ethics reform is an issue about which I feel strongly. As an observer and participant in the political process, I have seen first hand how some ethics abuses are perpetrated. As a State Representative, I have also noticed how much influence lobbyists have over the legislative process. When I sought election to this office, I campaigned on a platform of ethics reform.

Read more…

Jailbirds On New State Coin?

May 15, 2007

This letter was recently sent to the editor of Newsok.com

I was disappointed by the design of Oklahoma’s commemorative quarter that features the state bird and wildflower. My submission was much more appropriate. It contained the images of Gene Stipe, David Walters and Judge Donald D. Thompson with the caption: “Celebrating 100 Years of Corruption in All Three Branches of State Government. Instead of one lousy bird on the back of the coin, we could have had three jailbirds.

Congressman Cole Comments On McCain Accepting Lobbyist Money From Firms Who Represent Tribes

May 8, 2007


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who led the Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal, has sworn off taking tribal money in his presidential campaign but continues to accept donations from lobbyists whose firms represent tribal clients.

McCain spokesman Danny Diaz said the senator believes that tribes can spend their money in other ways. He added that McCain implemented the ban on tribal money when he became chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in the midst of the Abramoff scandal, before the panel began probing the tens of millions of dollars the tribes paid the former lobbyist.

Diaz, however, would not explain why McCain would not extend that policy to lobbyists representing tribes.

Other members, such as Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee and is the only registered member of an Indian tribe in Congress, say they believe that tribes should not be punished for the Abramoff scandal and should be free to be as active in the political process as possible — including in the political fundraising arena.

Cole said he respects McCain’s decision not to accept money from tribes, stressing that any member is free to establish his or her own policy about fundraising. But Cole argues that the Abramoff scandal is a lobbying scandal, not an Indian scandal.

“I don’t know one tribe that was found to have done anything wrong — in fact, they were the victims,” Cole said last month in an interview. “But what Abramoff and others were doing was clearly criminal. Tribes have the right to participate in the system because if they are not looking out for their interests, nobody else will.” Read more…

PAC to PAC Transfers Questionable

April 11, 2007


Oklahoma lawmakers are wrestling with an ethics rule change that could alter business as usual at the Capitol. The leaders of both the House and Senate and Gov. Brad Henry have not committed to the change so it’s unclear whether the measure will move forward this session. We think they should commit to the change.

The proposed change, promoted by Ethics Commission member Ken Elliott, prohibits political action committees from contributing to each other. Currently, one PAC can give another one up to $5,000 per election cycle.

Donors to one PAC may not always align with the purposes and politics of the PAC that ends up with their money. Transparency is also a problem as the public may not know the ultimate source of the funds. Read more…

House Committee Passes Ethics Reforms Effort

March 6, 2007

Speaker Cargill & House Democrat Leader Morgan join senate leaders to craft bi-partisan agreement

As a House committee on Monday advanced an ethics reform proposal, House and Senate leaders signed on a co-authors to House Bill 2110 in an effort to craft a final bipartisan plan.

House Speaker Lance Cargill (R-Harrah) and House Democrat Leader Danny Morgan (D-Prague) said the bill is a work in progress that will change as bipartisan discussions continue.

“I’m absolutely committed to ensuring that Oklahomans have an honest and open government, and I believe we can achieve that goal within a positive bipartisan framework,” said Cargill (R-Harrah). “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be working with leaders from both parties in the House and Senate to craft a strong ethics reform package that will make the State Capitol more open and accessible than ever before.”

Speaker Cargill and House Democrat Leader Morgan said they were joining with the Legislature’s other top leaders — including Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan (D-Stillwater) and Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee (R-Oklahoma City) — to develop a bipartisan ethics reform agreement. HB 2110 passed the House Rules Committee on Monday. The measure contains a number of provisions aimed at strengthening current state ethics law.

“The prospects for a strong bipartisan agreement on ethics reform thissession are excellent,” said Leader Morgan. “I am encouraged by the bipartisan spirit on this issue. The leadership of the Legislature must work together to ensure that our government is accountable to the people of Oklahoma. This is an important first step in the process to move forward to make government more user-friendly to citizens.”