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Oklahoma candidates who don't follow rules find politics costly

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission said it will begin assessing penalties this summer to almost two years worth of political candidates and committees that have failed to comply with campaign contribution and expenditure reporting requirements.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: May 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm •  Published: May 18, 2013
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Ongoing process

In addition to posting the list of delinquent accounts, the commission also mails letters to the candidates and committees reminding them of their responsibility, Maddox said.

Ross Smith, who last summer ran for House District 37 but was defeated in the Democratic primary, said the reporting system can be complicated and overwhelming for a first-time candidate.

Smith, who owns a construction company and did not hire a campaign staff for his run, said he's been unable to get assistance from the Ethics Commission. He has not closed his campaign account, and his last quarterly report was filed in June 2012.

“You really don't have any insight on what to do or how to do it because everybody expects you to know everything,” Smith said. “If you're trying to do it on your own, and only on your own, it's very difficult.”

Rick Agent, who in November lost his bid for the House District 2 seat, said he only recently realized he had reporting obligations beyond the campaign.

“I guess I thought when I lost that there wasn't anything else to do,” he said.

‘A lot of details'

Most prominent candidates for statewide office learn about the reporting requirements either from their campaign manager or from party representatives, said Trevor Worthen, a Republican political consultant based in Oklahoma City.

Candidates are given a calendar of reporting deadlines when they file for office, but many of them rely on their spouses or close friends to help manage the details of their campaigns, he said.

Though the reporting process is important, it can also be confusing, he said.

“In an active campaign there area lot of moving parts and a lot of details that you have to pay attention to,” he said. “My recommendation is always have a professional do this, because a volunteer is always inevitably going to miss something.”

Slater, who assumed his the Ethics Commission post full-time May 1, said he does not know exactly how many candidates have been delinquent over the previous two years nor would he guess how many total penalties will be assessed.

Since the candidates are guaranteed a right to protest, he said, the commission is looking to hire a hearing officer before it starts to mail out its penalty assessments.


In an active campaign there area lot of moving parts and a lot of details that you have to pay attention to. My recommendation is always have a professional do this, because a volunteer is always inevitably going to miss something.”

Trevor Worthen,
political consultant

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