Lobbyists working their first legislative session after their gift-giving cap was slashed by 67 percent targeted the first-ever state Republican Senate leader and freshman lawmakers, spending reports show.
Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, received the most things of value from lobbyists, getting about $976, mostly in meals, reports show.
House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, who completed his second year heading the House, was 23rd among legislators in the amount of meals or gifts given by lobbyists. Reports show lobbyists gave him about $487 worth of items, mostly meals. Seven freshman legislators received more from lobbyists than Benge did during the past legislative session.
The latest reports lobbyists filed with the state Ethics Commission show lobbyists spent about $49,470 on elected officials and staff during the first six months of 2009, which includes the four-month legislative session that starts in early February and concludes in late May. Most of the money, about $38,587, was spent on legislators; almost all was for meals.
That compares with lobbyists reported giving of $73,652 to lawmakers during the same period in 2008. During the first six months of 2007, lobbyists reported spending nearly $120,000.
A big factor for the decline is a law that went into effect July 1, 2008. It cut from $300 to $100 the allowable amount spent on gifts for legislators and elected officials by a lobbyist’s employer in a calendar year.
The reports also include gifts and meals not covered previously. The law also requires lobbyists to disclose gifts after spending more than $10 on a official or aide during each six-month period. Previously, only gifts that cost $50 or more had to be disclosed.
Republicans got the most
The lobbyist reports were due Monday. A check of records filed online by noon Tuesday showed 118 lobbyists had filed reports showing they provided things of value to elected officials or their staff during the first six months of the year. The state has about 375 registered lobbyists. Lobbyists don’t face a fine for not filing their reports by the deadline.
Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, received about $730 from lobbyists, the second-highest amount and the highest among the 23 freshmen — 17 in the House and six in the Senate. Four freshmen were in the top 10.
Your Right to Know: View the database for lobbyist gifts