Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Campaign Finance Bills

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Campaign Finance Bills

Article excerpt

Will the third time be the charm? Probably not. Two previous efforts to restrict campaign contributions to legislators while the legislature is in session have not proven effective.

This time, Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, has introduced House Bill 1015, which bans contributions to legislators between Feb. 1 and the last Friday in May. A similar measure, HB 2124 has been filed by Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City. While the language of the two bills is slightly different, their intent is the same. Morgan's bill bans contributions between Feb. 1 and June 1 of each year.

The bills would prohibit contributions to "a candidate committee created to support the candidacy of any member, or to any committee primarily created to support the candidacy of any group of members during the legislative session. This is aimed at political action committees formed in the House and Senate for the primary purpose of supporting each party's legislative candidates. Democrats and Republicans have formed the PACs. The Democrats, being the party in power, have been the most successful in fund-raising. Both bills also would amend rules of the Ethics Commission to make the same prohibition on contributions, or acceptance of contributions. Under the constitutional amendment creating the Ethics Commission, the legislature is empowered to amend by law rules of the ethics commission. The practice of fund-raising by legislative leaders has "progressed" over the years. In the past, House and Senate leaders would hold fund-raising "appreciation" receptions. These functions ostensibly were "sponsored" by friends, political figures, or interest groups. The money raised went to re-election campaign funds of the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore, or the majority floor leaders. Sometimes they even had races. With the money "left over" from their own "campaigns," the legislative leaders could help other Senate and House candidates. This served two purposes. It helped elect Democrats, or in a few cases Republicans, to the legislature and strengthened support of the leaders in the House and Senate. Seeing the success of these fund raisers other members of the legislature soon followed their leaders. "Appreciation" receptions began to proliferate during the legislative session. Often there would be as many as five or six a week, sometimes with two or three a night. Meeting rooms of hotels and various trade associations near the capitol in Oklahoma City were regularly booked to hold the receptions. The normal going rate of appreciation was usually $50 per person. Generally these receptions would be attended by a few folks from the legislator's district, other legislators (who were guests) and lobbyists (who were not). If a legislator was chairman of a committee there usually was greater attendance, generally by people with interests in legislation the committee handled. …

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