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Oklahoma candidates accept corporate contributions, afoul of state law

A review of campaign finance data from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission turned up a number of candidates who have accepted donations directly from corporations, something prohibited by state law.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND and PHILLIP O'CONNOR Modified: October 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm •  Published: October 31, 2012

Shumate, a four-term house member seeking a Senate seat, said Tuesday he was unaware the contribution might run afoul of state law.

“I did not know and I really appreciate you for alerting me,” he said. “I'll get with my treasurer and look into it. If it's improper, we will refund that or get that directed another way.”

Asked if he was aware that contributions from for-profit corporations are illegal, Shumate said, “I'm not necessarily, generally, an expert on all campaign laws ... I don't know all the specifics or details. I have a campaign treasurer that looks through those things.”

Jason Smalley, a Republican candidate for House District 32 in Lincoln and Logan counties, received a donation from Champion Cleaning Service in Stroud, a registered for-profit corporation on the secretary of state's website.

“Honestly, that's my neighbor and that's his business,” Smalley said.

He said he would go back and check whether the donation was from his neighbor as an individual or from the corporation, adding he'd give the $100 back if anything was wrong.

Democratic candidate Patty Wagstaff, for House District 26, said the $100 from J Thompson Consulting Inc. was from her former next-door neighbor, and she thought it was from the individual, not the company.

“I will definitely give him a call and get that taken care of,” Wagstaff said.

Return of funds is first step

Hughes said the first step is for candidates to return funds if they violate the law. She said from there the Ethics Commission or a district attorney could pursue further penalties.

Other contributions that appear to be from corporations:

Rep. James Lockhart, D-Heavener, accepted $89.50 from Tyson Organization Inc., also listed by the Texas secretary of state as a for-profit corporation.

Nancy Niemann, a Democratic candidate running for House District 37, reported in-kind contributions of $794.63 from Head Country Bar-B-Q Inc. and $100 from hi-fi Systems Inc. Both are listed as corporations by the Oklahoma secretary of state.

Niemann's Republican opponent, Rep. Steven Vaughn, reported a $500 contribution from Mitchco Inc., a registered corporation in Ponca City.

Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, reported contributions of $250 from Rocky's Corner Inc., an Oklahoma corporation.

Those four candidates could not be reached for comment Tuesday.