Local campaign finance law would be scrapped under bill pending in Oklahoma Legislature

Laws governing things such as how much a political donor can contribute to a local campaign, how those contributions are reported and where the public can access those reports are contained in the Political Subdivisions Ethics Act, written in 1995.
by Rick Green Published: May 8, 2014
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Local campaign finance regulations in Oklahoma have become virtually impossible to enforce, say backers of a measure that would scrap these laws in favor of a new system.

A bill pending in the Legislature would make often-confusing local rules more closely track with laws for state races, said Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, one of the bill’s authors.

“It improves the transparency of the process and it minimizes any corruption, and that’s the goal here,” Griffin said.

Laws governing things such as how much a political donor can contribute to a local campaign, how those contributions are reported and where the public can access those reports are contained in what is known as the Political Subdivisions Ethics Act.

“This act was written in 1995 and has been amended very little since then,” said Lee Slater, executive director of the state Ethics Commission. “It would generously be described as flawed in that much of it is unclear and it is certainly out of date. This would allow for uniform interpretation and enforcement of campaign laws at all levels of government in Oklahoma.”

The existing act doesn’t discuss independent political expenditures, which have skyrocketed in this country as groups engage in political advertising without contributing directly to a campaign. The proposed law would handle such contributions as they are handled in state races, where these groups must identify donors who contribute more than $50.

Other requirements

It would also require that:

•Financial disclosure statements for local candidates match a more detailed statement required for candidates for state office.

•Campaign spending reports for local races, such as city council and county commission, be available to be viewed within the county where the race is taking place. As it stands now, many of these reports are only available at the state Capitol.

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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